Former Prime Minister Theresa May was well known for her love of shoes. In June 2017, we asked her to try on a new pair for size.


“We are asking you to take a day and walk in our shoes and see what a person with different complex needs has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

Sally, supported by Hft in Leeds

People we support say the people who run our country don’t give their hopes and concerns the same attention as those of people without disabilities.

Walk in our shoes logo

As a social care provider, we’ve seen that the voice of people with learning disabilities is often overlooked even when social care is part of the debate. An example of this is the upcoming Green Paper on social care, which only focuses on the elderly.

That’s why the people we support and Hft are calling on politicians to spend time with people with a learning disability, and hear what life is like for them.

“Take a walk in the lives of people with disabilities and see what we have to face.”

Becky, supported by Hft in Gloucestershire

So how’s the campaign going?

  • In May we organised a Thunderclap calling on Theresa May to ask her MPs to visit their local Hft service and find out what it’s like to #walkinourshoes. Over 100 people supported the Thunderclap across Facebook and Twitter, helping to spread the word to up to 70,000 others.
  • On Monday 7 June two members of Voices to be Heard went to Downing Street to hand deliver as ‘special delivery’ a pair of custom-made shoes to Theresa May, along with a letter providing information about our campaign. The shoes were decorated with the faces of people supported by Hft, as well as Hft’s signature purple and gold colours.
  • And on 18 July we received a response from Downing Street – take a look at the letter from Theresa May’s office below, along with a copy of our original letter.

Response from Thangam Debbonaire

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire MP
Official portrait of Thangam Debonnaire from Parliament UK is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Thangam Debbonaire is the MP for Bristol West.

She visited our Apsley House service in Bristol on 18 September 2018. She was the first Labour MP and the first MP to visit an Hft service as part of the Walk in our shoes campaign.

The issues discussed included Brexit and whether or not people with learning disabilities could work for MPs. Many members were concerned about Bristol Council scrapping free travel for disabled people.

We asked Thangam to submit a Parliamentary Written Question relating to cuts to concessionary bus fares, and the impact this is having upon adults with learning disabilities.

On 5 November 2018, Thangam asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what research his Department has undertaken on the effect of recent reductions to funding for concessionary bus passes on adults with (a) learning difficulties and (b) autism. 

On 14th November Nusrat Ghani, Minister for Buses and Taxis, answered:

“Funding to local authorities for concessionary travel is not provided in isolation, but as part of their Local Government Finance Settlement. This Formula Grant funding is not ring-fenced, which enables authorities to make spending decisions that more closely match local needs and circumstances.

Eligibility for the statutory concession on medical grounds is assessed by local authorities on a case by case basis, using the seven criteria set down in legislation and supported by the Department’s published guidance.

Local authorities also have the powers to offer concessions over and above the statutory minimum, for instance by extending the concession to residents who may not qualify under the statutory criteria.”

Response from Neil Parish

Official Portrait of Neil Parish
Official portrait of Neil Parish from Parliament UK is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Neil Parish is the MP for Tiverton and Honiton.

He visited our Oak Tree House service in Bampton on 15 February 2019, and was the first Conservative MP to visit an Hft service as part of the Walk in our shoes campaign.

Issues discussed during Neil’s visit included cutting funding to respite care and supported holidays, and how the government plans to support people with learning disabilities who later develop dementia. Many people were concerned about the impact closures of public toilets is having on disabled people.

We asked Neil to submit a Parliamentary Written Question relating to funding for public toilets, and what guidance local authorities are being given regarding provision of toilets accessible to people with disabilities.

On 18th February 2019, Neil asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that local authorities receive adequate funding to ensure that public toilets are sufficiently accessible for people with disabilities.

On 25th February, Rishi Sunak, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, answered:

“Local authorities have discretion over the range of services they provide and will see their core spending power increase to £46.4 billion in 2019-20, a cash-increase of 2.8 per cent. To support the running of all public toilets, the Chancellor announced at Autumn Budget a new 100 per cent business rates relief for standalone public lavatories in England.”

Response from Sir Ed Davey

Official Portrait of Sir Ed Davey
Official portrait of Sir Ed Davey
from Parliament UK is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Sir Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston and Surbiton.

He visited our New Malden day services on Friday 8 February 2019, and is the first Liberal Democrat MP to visit an Hft service as part of the campaign.

Issues discussed included social care funding, long delays in accessing wheelchairs from the NHS, and making trains more accessible to people with learning disabilities.

We asked Ed to submit a Parliamentary Written Question on what steps the government is taking to make sure train companies have accessibility plans for people with learning disabilities and autism.

On 27 February 2019, Ed asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that train companies have effective accessibility plans for passengers with (a) learning disabilities and (b) autism.”

On 6t March 2019, Nusrat Ghani, Minister responsible for accessibility across all transport modes at Department for Transport, answered:      

“All train operating companies (TOCs) are required as part of their licence condition to have in place a Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP) which sets out their plans to make sure disabled passengers, including those with learning disabilities and autism, are able to use the rail network.

“The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is responsible for monitoring TOCs’ compliance with their DPPPs. ORR has the powers to take enforcement action where there are breaches of licence conditions, and the Department has encouraged them to do so. The Department is working closely with the ORR as they review the requirements in the DPPP guidance.

“In the Inclusive Transport Strategy published in 2018, the Department set out the actions it will take to make the rail network more accessible for people with all disabilities, for example requiring train operators to provide enhanced disability awareness training covering a range of disabilities including non-visible disabilities such as learning disabilities and autism to all staff. The strategy can be found on the Gov.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-transport-strategy.

“The Williams Rail Review is considering the needs and priorities of disabled passengers in its work, and identifying how accessibility can be improved for everyone.”

Response from Kemi Badenoch

Official portrait of Kemi Badenoch from Parliament UK is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Kemi is the MP for Saffron Waldon.

She visited our Ugley homes and day services on Friday 21 June 2019.

Issues discussed included Brexit, cuts to supported holidays and the accessibility of leisure services.

We asked Kemi to submit a Parliamentary Written Question on what steps the government is taking to make sure that people with learning disabilities and autism have access to accessible leisure facilities.

On 11 July, Kemi asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that local authorities provide adequate leisure and recreational facilities for people with learning disabilities.” 

On 17 July, Rishi Sunak, Minister for Local Government at the Ministry for Communities and Local Government, answered:

“The Government recognises that access to high-quality inclusive spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities.

“In 2015, the Government sport strategy, Sporting Future: A Strategy for an Active Nation placed a focus on encouraging activity amongst those less likely to be active – including people with disabilities. The Government supports efforts that aim to encourage people with all forms of disability to become active and to fulfil their sporting potential.

“The Activity Alliance’s ‘Inclusive Fitness Initiative’ is supporting leisure centres to become more welcoming and accessible environments to disabled people. Activity Alliance run the initiative in collaboration with Sport England and UK Active and aim to give the active leisure sector support to improve, modernise and invest in its facilities, with the ambition that every facility in the country complies with the Activity Alliance ‘Inclusive Fitness Initiative’.

“In 2018-19 the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government committed over £15 million to support a robust package of new Government initiatives to support vibrant and inclusive open spaces to enable more people to participate in leisure activities. This included the Pocket Parks Plus programme which is providing funding for 198 community-led projects across England to create new or renovate existing parks. A number of the successful projects will be creating open spaces that address social inclusion – and increasing access for people with different disabilities to leisure and wellbeing activities.”

Download a copy of the letter presented to Theresa May alongside the 'Walk in our shoes' shoes

Read Downing Street's response to the Walk in our shoes campaign team

Walk in our shoes marks the first campaign to be run by Voices to be Heard to bring the issues that matter to them directly to the attention of MPs and other policymakers.