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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Improving the lives of people with learning disabilities

What can we do to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities? This question has become ever more urgent since the publication of datawhich shows that people with a learning disability are likely to die 23-29 years before their peers.  Health inequalities and social exclusion mean that learning disability has become a socially constructed life-limiting impairment.

On 5thJuly, Professor Katherine Runswick-Cole went to an event hosted by the Public Policy Exchange to speak to self-advocates, family members, academics and practitioners about recent research carried out at The University of Sheffield with people with learning disabilities: Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society.

Katherine spoke about the strand of the project that focused on raising the levels of employment for people with learning disabilities that currently stands at only 5.7%.  Katherine talked about the policy recommendations from the project that include ensuring that young people can keep their Education, Health and Care Plans if they move into employment before they are 25; increasing the number of supported internships available to young people and creating national standards for job coaches.  You can read full details of the policy recommendations here:

You can read the presentation here

KRC Policy Forum

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Using circles of support in transitions with young people to adulthood

Helen Smith and Katherine Runswick-Cole were invited to an event at Bents Green School in Sheffield jointly hosted with the Department for Childhood, Education and Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University to talk about circles of support in transitions.

About thirty parents/carers and practitioners from across Sheffield attended the session.  The session began with an introduction to circles of support by Christine Towers, formerly of the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

Helen introduced her work on circles of support for Community Circles, a charity which runs as a social franchise to support the development of circles in local areas.

Katherine spoke about the Big Society strand of research focusing on circles of support and how a circle had enabled one young participant in the study to transition successfully from education to adult life.

The presentations sparked a range of conversations about how people could access support to facilitate a circle to who the circle might be for – a baby, a child, a young person or a parent?CiwRj2SWsAAQK29

The organisers are going to reflect on the findings from the day and hope to learn from a circles of support approach to develop better support for young people in Sheffield.


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The struggle for human rights is an international issue too!

We have been learning about the challenges facing disabled people in South East Asia. During a recent visit Dan Goodley had the pleasure to meet a number of people engaged disability issues in Singapore. These included Judy Wee (Disabled People’s Association), Lyn Loh (formerly Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and Disabled People’s Association), Andrew Chew (formerly Blind Sports Association of Singapore and Guide Dogs Association of the Blind), Michael Tan (former Executive Director of Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped), Ryan IK (National Council of Social Service), Lishan Chan (mental health advocate and National Council of Social Service), May Low (Singapore Association for the Deaf), Dr Wong Meng Ee (National Institute of Education), Lu Si Yinn (disability researcher) and Professor Reuben Wong (National University of Singapore). The workshops were organised and also attended by Emily Charissa Lim (AWARE, Association of Women for Action and Research)
Dan said:
Just as welfare services are being cut for people with intellectual disabilities in the UK – under the rhetoric of ‘we are all in this together’ – Singaporean colleagues spoke to me of the challenges of living in a society that prides itself on individual self-sufficiency. Indeed, they told me about a number of recent government initiatives that are increasing support to disabled people; which struck me as ironic when, from a British perspective, disabled people are having their support networks disbanded. 

Dan was in Singapore with a University of Sheffield delegation led by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, that seeks to extend partnerships in South East Asia. Dan gave a public lecture on the new iHuman: The Institute for the Study of the Human which will be launched later this year, to an audience of the general public, alumni, disability activists and key policy makers and researchers on the 5
thApril at the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore.
The following day Dan travelled to Kuala Lumpur to meet with researchers and governmental officers to discuss future research collaboration around the areas of disability, work and independent living.
Follow up links:

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Big Society just got a little bit smaller …

We’re really sorry to see this fantastic initiative lose funding ….


The Big Society just got a little bit smaller

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Max Neill

We are very sad to learn that Max Neill passed away on 29th February, 2016.

As an experienced community living advisor and leader in the development of person centred approaches, Max was a much-respected member of the research team. Max’s gentle presence served always to remind us of the power and importance of connected communities.

We will miss him.

Our thoughts are with his family.

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North West Regional Forum, Blackpool, 24th February, 2016

We were delighted to be invited back to Blackpool for this year’s regional forum.  You can find out more about self-advocacy in the North West here.

The annual Forum is an opportunity for 120 self-advocates from across the North West to come together to talk about the issues that matter to them.

Katherine said: “I would like to thank the Forum for inviting us again this year to talk about our research findings.  It was great to be able to talk about the work with self-advocates at the conference and I’m looking forward to visiting some of the local self-advocacy groups to tell them more.

If you would like to read our presentation to the Forum, you can down load it here

Blackpool LD Forum 2016