No funding for self advocacy

Hi All
Please see a letter that I sent to Theresa May on Monday.
So cross! I want to share the letter I have written today.

Dear Mrs May
RE: Self Advocacy for People with Learning Disabilities
I am writing to you to express my concerns that your Government has lost their focus with regard to vulnerable people in society. I am currently a manager of a small charity in Cornwall called Cornwall People First. Due to Cornwall Councils financial situation the council will be withdrawing funding to us from 31st March 2017. I have put myself forward for voluntary redundancy and have had this accepted in order to support the charity viability. I am not concerned for my own future, but I feel I need to put this in context. I believe in the importance of self advocacy. I know the work the charity does is exceptional and the people we support deserve to have their voices heard. How will this be possible with no secure future for the charity? Plymouth People First is in the same situation as Cornwall People First as Plymouth City has withdrawn their funding too.
My mother wrote to you and has now received a letter in response from the Department of Communities and Local Government their reference: 2739956. Within the letter it states that it is wrong for any council to target the voluntary sector. The Best Value Statutory Guidance in the Ministerial Forward states “The Duty of Best Value continues to be important because it makes clear that councils should consider overall value – including social value – when considering service provision. So it plays to the long-term strengths of voluntary and community groups and small businesses.” “There are some councils who are actively working to protect these organisations and working with them to deliver cost-effective, innovative public services. The new guidance on the requirements of the Equality Act is intended to support such activity. Local councils have been freed from excessive and prescriptive guidance and duties in return for a ‘social responsibility’ deal which asks that they continue to give support to local voluntary and community groups and small businesses.” Where is this happening in Cornwall? It isn’t within the learning disability community. The best guidance also states: To achieve the right balance – and before deciding how to fulfil their Best Value Duty – authorities are under a Duty to Consult representatives of a wide range of local persons; this is not optional. Authorities must consult representatives of council tax payers, those who use or are likely to use services provided by the authority, and those appearing to the authority to have an interest in any area within which the authority carries out functions. Authorities should include local voluntary and community organisations and small businesses in such consultation. This should apply at all stages of the commissioning cycle, including when considering the decommissioning of services. In the interests of economy and efficiency, it is not necessary for authorities to undertake lifestyle or diversity questionnaires of suppliers or residents. The learning disability community has spoken up at the Local Cornwall Learning Disability Partnership Board on numerous occasions to say they are not happy with this cut. For example please see: It has also been raised at the Safeguarding Adults Board. Members, family and friends have petitioned the Cornwall Council and are awaiting a response.
Yesterday, I heard the National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities will no longer be funded. People with Learning Disabilities have been abused, tortured and suffered enough. We live in a society where people should be treated as equals but I cannot see this happening currently. Since the austerity has been on the Conservatives agenda, the vulnerable voices have been cut. Services like Cornwall People First, Plymouth People First and The National Forum with their funding cuts have had the effect that the voice of people with Learning Disabilities has been silenced. In 2000 Valuing People and Valuing People Now made some headway in recognising the importance of people needing to be equal members of society. This is now not the case since your party has come into power self advocacy groups have diminished and the few that remain are now going to disappear. I am aware your priority to the voting public is to balance the books but at what cost? People with Learning Disabilities are also members of society and their human right to have their voice heard does not seem important to your Government or local authorities.
The Conservative Party promised in its manifesto that it would make sure “the hardest to help receive the support they need for a fulfilling life”. Over the year’s people with learning disabilities have fought to have their voices heard, make their own choices in life and be part of mainstream society. I fear we are going backwards on decades of work which secured these rights and inclusion in society. I implore this government to review their priorities and take action to stop this oblivious decline in the funding that supports people with learning disabilities to have their voices heard.
I look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely

Mrs Selina Williamson

Cc: Steve Double MP
George Eustice MP
Scott Mann MP
Sheryll Murray MP
Sarah Newton MP
Derek Thomas MP
Cornwall People First
Plymouth People First


Thank you for sharing this heartfelt and powerful letter, Selina.

Sadly- I think you’re right in identifying a National trend in funding cuts for services for people with Learning Disabilities. We are looking at the issue locally in Surrey, and I have seen that services in the Midlands and elsewhere are doing the same. With the deeply troubling cut to funding for the National Forum for People with Learning Disabilities, it is hard to work out the best way to come together with a National Voice to capture and explain the situation for people with learning disabilities and the services which try to support them.

I hope you will share the response that you get and that we can all use the Choice Forum to share the issues and concerns which are arising daily and find a way of spreading the message that people with learning disabilities should not be seen as an ‘easy target’ when Councils have to find ways of reducing their expenditure.

Thank you Selina for writing this letter - and sharing it. I too despair watching the slow dismantling of ways in which the voices of people with learning disabilities are being silenced. I look forward to seeing the response but expect it to be similar to the response your mother received - bland hand washing. I wish I had ideas to reverse this but am left empty of ideas by the toll of austerity.

I can only hope that the people you work with are supported by organisations that still value their voice and, although not independent, may still offer ways for peole to make their needs and opinions heard.

Take care.

Yes thank you for sharing this Selina. Sadly the value placed on disablity rights and support seems to be eroding. It does feel like we’re going backwards not forwards which is pretty depressing, although we have to keep going.
I hope the response brings some movement.
Kind regards,

Thank you so much for voicing the fears and concerns of many people with Learning Disabilities and their families and carers so eloquently and passionately in your well evidenced letter Selina. I really hope the Government takes some action. Take care K