Big Society, Disability and Civil Society Research

Website for ESRC research project 'Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society'


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Workshop Two: Supported employment in the UK – trends, innovations and challenges, Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3

Workshop Two: Supported employment in the UK – trends, innovations and challenges

Another early start for the team for a supported employment workshop at the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Putrajaya (http://www.kpwkm.gov.my/home). Thirty job coach trainers, Officers from the Department of Social Welfare, Japan International Co-operation Association (http://www.jica.go.jp/english/), Labour Deparment, Social Security Organisation, Ministry of Health, Non-Government Organisations and Private Sector.

Swee Lan Yeo, a job coach and part of the Job Coach network in Malaysia , introduced the research team: Dan Goodley, The University of Sheffield, Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University and Keith Bates, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities to the audience. Members of the audience had travelled from across Malaysia to attend the workshop getting up at four and five o’clock in the morning to attend.

Keith Bates started the session by describing the current context for employment for people with learning disabilities in the UK. Keith described that the employment rates for people with learning disabilities have changed very little over the last ten years and only between 7%-15% of people with learning disabilities are in work. Keith introduced some of the approaches to employment in the UK. (see powerpoint 1 below)

Following Keith, Dan Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole shared stories about people with learning disabilities and employment from the current research (see powerpoint 2 below). This presentation made a case for qualitative research. A discussion with participants revealed similar paradigm wars in Malaysia as they are in the UK (in relation to quantitative/qualitative debates).

After a tea break, Keith spoke about building aspirations and opportunities for people with learning disabilities in employment sharing the “When I grow up” programme (http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/our-work/employment-education/when-i-grow-up/) (see powerpoint 3). Following the presentation, discussion groups were asked “How do we build an assumption of employability for people with learning disabilities?” and “What messages do we give children with learning disabilities about employment”?

This was followed by a focus on how to create and how to improve good quality job coaching (see powerpoint 3). This led into a discussion of what it means to be a job coach and what the major challenges facing job coaches are which focused on the issues of the ‘professionalisation’ of job coaching.

After lunch, Keith described the emergence of quality standards for job coaches in the UK, as well as an emerging online directory for job coaches (www.findajobcoach.co.uk )

The day was concluded with a discussion about self employment and small business ownership for people with a learning disabilities. Keith gave an overview of current work in the UK before going on to describe some examples of how some people with learning disabilities have been supported to become self-employed in the UK. You can find out more about self employment for people with learning disabilities here: http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/our-work/employment-education/in-business/ . The story of Delroy exemplified a discivil society approach which views disability as a possibility rather than a problem in re-thinking ideas of independence, community and work.

The day ended with a plenary session bringing together the discussions from the day.

Responses from delegates:

“Malaysia is in the process of strengthening job coaching services, and today’s sharing has given us a direction I hope the government will take on further”.

“Session has reassured me that all people with learning disabilities can work if we give them the good quality support. Regardless of how severe I will try to discover and tap into strengths”

“Delroy was given the opportunity to be a contributor as well as having a job.”

I will start to give awareness about employment, starting from school.”

“ I will think more about small businesses for people with learning disabilities”.

“I will share with families and communities knowledge about businesses.”

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Big Society on Tour – Malaysia

Why Malaysia?

This week four members of the Big Society research team, Dan Goodley, The University of Sheffield, Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Rebecca Lawthom, MMU, and Keith Bates, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, are travelling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to talk about the Big Society project. As readers of the blog will know, the project is asking how people with learning disabilities are faring in a time of austerity in the UK, so why did we decide to come to Malaysia to share our findings?

  1. The Malaysian Context

In the Government adopted the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and provides social protection services in areas such as health, rehabilitation and education for disabled children guided by the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities and the National Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities. Malaysia also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2010. The government has made a commitment to improving services and support, especially for children in schools

  1. Long standing connections with Malaysia

Members of the team have already worked with colleagues in Malaysia in the past. They have shared their work on self-advocacy and community psychology in collaboration with organisations in Penang , Kuala Lumpur , Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Penang.   The team has good relationships with United Voice (http://www.unitedvoice.com.my), a self-advocacy organization for people with learning disabilities in Malaysia. Members of the team were involved with the first national seminar on self-advocacy held in Malaysia in 2007 (http://www.unitedvoice.com.my/newsletter/2007aprilnewsletter.pdf) and worked on a collaborative research project with researchers from Kuching and Kuala Lumpur (as well as the UK and Zimbabwe) in 2008-2010 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13603116.2010.496200?journalCode=tied20#preview). Through those long-standing relationships, while in Malaysia, the team is able to meet up with disabled people, family members, practitioners, academics, activists and policy makers in Malaysia to share pan-national examples of good practice in relation to self-advocacy, employment and independent living. Our work with Malaysian colleagues over the next week seeks to share and develop ideas around these key elements of civil society in order to challenge disablism and promote community inclusion of people with the label of learning disabilities.

  1. Shared interest in employment, advocacy and community living.

Our Malaysian partners and the project team share an interest in the three strands of the Big Society project: self-advocacy, employment. In sharing our research findings, we are hoping to learn from the Malaysian experience and to reflect on practice and policy in the UK. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting about our experiences in Malaysia and reflecting on what we’ve learned.

We can also be contacted via email: Dan Goodley d.goodley@sheffield.ac.uk Katherine Runswick-Cole k.runswick-cole@mmu.ac.uk Keith Bates kbates@learningdisabilities.org.uk

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No voice unheard? Stop the cuts to advocacy services for people with learning disabilities

On 26th February, 2015, we joined delegates at the North West Learning Disability Forum organized by the North West Training and Development Team and Pathways Associates at the Hilton Hotel in Blackpool.

This annual event is a unique opportunity for 120 self-advocates to come together and talk about the issues that affect their lives. Each year the conference invites a range of speakers including policy makers, commissioners and people working in universities.

As part of the Big Society project, we attended the conference last year to share information about the research.

This year, we went back to ask self-advocates what has changed over the last year?

Changes to self-advocacy

As part of the workshop we ran, we asked people to tell us about changes in self-advocacy in their local area.

The biggest change was the cut in the number of self-advocacy groups. Several delegates reported that their local group had closed down, and that support staff had gone part-time or been made redundant.

In one local area, a grant for advocacy had been given on the basis that the work the group did was based on health outcomes including activities such as boccia, line dancing and healthy eating sessions. Participants in the sessions are also being asked to pay £5 to attend the ‘advocacy’ group. This is a major departure from the aspirations of the self-advocacy movement to offer a space for people to speak up together for their rights. As the health focus was set by the funder, not by the self-advocates themselves, it seems difficult to describe such groups as ‘self-advocacy’ at all.

One self-advocate told us that he used to attend a weekly advocacy meeting but now the annual learning disability conference was the only advocacy event he could afford to attend.

As well as self-advocacy groups closing, people told us that some local authorities no longer have learning disability partnership boards to represent the views of people with learning disabilities.

No voice unheard, no right ignored

Only a week after the Blackpool event 6th March, the Department of Health launched No voice unheard, no rights ignored: a consultation for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/409816/Document.pdf)

The consultation declares “My right to be listened to and have my wishes acted upon” but, at the same time, back in the real world, self-advocacy organisations are disappearing across the country.

A key finding from our research is that self-advocacy matters to people with learning disabilities. It performs a vital role in ensuring that people can speak up and be heard. If this and future governments are really serious about “no voice unheard, no rights ignored” they will need to take urgent steps to help to re-build advocacy services for people with learning disabilities before they disappear completely.

You can respond to the #NoVoiceUnheard consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-rights-for-people-with-learning-disabilities

ensuring that people can speak up and be heard. If this and future governments are really serious about “no voice unheard, no rights ignored” they will need to take urgent steps to re-building advocacy services for people with learning disabilities before they disappear completely.

You can respond to the #NoVoiceUnheard consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-rights-for-people-with-learning-disabilities