Theresa Villiers, local MP for Chipping Barnet, has taken up the offer to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities as part of a campaign encouraging political leaders to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face.
Theresa Villiers met with four adults supported by national disabilities charity, Hft, at its service in Barnet on Friday 19 July to listen to their concerns and find out more about the issues that matter to them.
The MP responded to the charity’s Walk In Our Shoes campaign, which calls on politicians to visit their local Hft service. The initiative, launched last year, is led by the charity’s speak out group, Voices to Be Heard, who feel that their hopes and concerns are not given the same attention by political leaders as those of people without disabilities. The campaign aims to facilitate opportunities for people to share their experiences with politicians and help shape future policy decisions that affect their lives.
On the day, the MP was given a tour of the premises and took part in a question and answer session, where people supported by Hft had the chance to talk about the issues impacting their day-to-day lives. Among the issues raised were social care funding, access to employment and opportunities to return to education.
Harry, who lives at an Hft service in the area, said:
“I’m really pleased that Theresa Villiers came to see us today. People with learning disabilities have opinions on things, too. And it is important for us that our voices are heard.”
People supported by Hft also asked Theresa Villiers to raise a question in parliament about what the Government is going to do to help adults with learning disabilities to go back to further education.
Billy Davis is Hft’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager. He helped to create the campaign which in June 2018 saw two members of the speak out group hand delivering a pair of custom-made shoes to Downing Street for the Prime Minister, along with a letter providing information about the campaign.
“We’re pleased to welcome the latest MP to her local Hft service. We hope that other politicians will follow her example and take the opportunity to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities.
“Walk In Our Shoes offers the people supported by Hft a meaningful platform to raise awareness of the issues that matter to them. Ever since the launch of the campaign, the people we support have been eager to speak with politicians from across the parties about the issues that affect them.
“In Chipping Barnet, issues relating to access to education are a real concern. We look forward to seeing how Theresa Villiers takes this forward in parliament.”
The visit follows the charity’s launch of its second annual Sector Pulse Check report earlier this year. The research surveying learning disability providers was carried out independently by Cebr and echoes some of the concerns around funding cuts raised by adults with learning disabilities.
The report revealed that in 2018 more than half (59%) of providers had been forced to close down some parts of their organisation or hand back contracts to local authorities as a means of dealing with cost pressures. 68% envisaged having to do the same “in the near future” while 11% foresaw a reduction in the quality of care if their financial situation did not improve.
For more information on Walk In Our Shoes, visit: https://www.hft.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/walk-in-our-shoes/