Manchester must unite if we hope to achieve positive and lasting change for people with learning disabilities across the region, claims a Mencap campaigns officer.
New Royal Mencap Regional campaigns officer for the North of England Stephen John is urging learning disability groups, charities, learning establishments and councils to come together to make a difference.
Talking exclusively to MM this weekend Mr John said the people of Manchester had to increase the support for campaigning for people with learning disabilities.
“I’ve only been campaigns officer in Manchester for two weeks. Already in this area I can see there is much we can and need to do,” he said.
“We need to realise people with learning difficulties can be very capable and take a responsibility to make a reasonable adjustment to allow potential to be reached.”
According to Mencap statistics, 1.5million people have a learning disability in the UK (1:60).
Mencap’s surveys also reveal that nine out of every ten experience hate crime, ever increasing budget restrictions and reductions, and numerous other inequalities – facts that Mr John wants to see eradicated.
“For those who are less capable, we have a responsibility to ensure their lives are as fulfilling as possible,” he said.
“In Manchester I envisage campaigns relating to budget cuts, transport, health, disability hate crime and – potentially – abuse.”
Mencap already has outstanding success with campaigns in other areas of the UK, most recently the retention of day service provision in the Wirral, Rotherham and Knutsford. And Work and Stand by Me linked with organisations including northern police forces to raise awareness about those who became victims of crime because of their disability.
Mr John told MM how similar success could be achieved in Manchester if organisations work together.
“Campaign partnerships where Mencap, local Mencap groups, pan disability charities, educational establishments, statutory bodies, carers groups and more, come together can forge a powerful coalition,” he said.
“By working in unison, we can undertake more campaigns and affect positive change for more people.
“I would welcome the opportunity to work with anyone who feels they want to work alongside Mencap and so if people want to get involved they need to get in contact.”
The work Mr John is planning to implement in Manchester is part of Mencap’s 2011-2016 strategy: to change society’s attitude and culture; to influence people who shape policy and practice; and to empower and directly support more individuals to live fulfilled lives.
Mr John is positive for the future of campaigning after holding successful meetings in the past year with influential politicians including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Esther McVey, the Conservative MP for Wirral West and the minister for disabled people.
“These prominent figures will not remember the meetings for my attendance but rather for the people with a learning disability who have accompanied me,” he said.
“The words of people with a learning disability will have a more lasting effect than mine ever could, and quite rightly so.”
For more information about Mencap’s campaign work in the north of England visit www.mencap.org.uk