I am an active self-advocate and campaigner. I'm involved with lots of groups, because I believe that people with a learning disability need to stand up and be counted. I live in Scunthorpe in north Lincolnshire, where I live independently in my own flat.
For the past 12 years, I have had a part-time job at Tesco, where I work for three days a week. It is my first and only job, which Mencap's Pathway employment service helped me to get. I particularly enjoy meeting customers and helping them out. My job is important to me, because it gives me money to do the other things I am interested in.
One of the most important of these is being a regional representative on Mencap's Yorkshire and Humber regional committee. I represent the views of people with a learning disability and their family carers, and tell the committee the things that are important to them. I also recently became co-chair of the regional committee.
The committee has worked on the Getting it right campaign, which has helped to improve the experiences of people with a learning disability when they have to go to hospital or to see a doctor.
Opportunities to speak up
I have been involved with my local learning disability partnership board for several years. A friend first told me about the meetings, so I went along as a self-advocate – later I became one of three co-chairs of the board.
Although it's good that there is a learning disability partnership board, I still think that it could do more to listen to people with a learning disability and to involve more people with a learning disability. Meetings should be more accessible and the various documents to do with the board could be made easier to understand.
I am also a member of Scunthorpe Mencap management committee and I am secretary of Scunthorpe Gateway club. I help to organise club activities and events – recently, I put together the questions for a club quiz night.
People don't always listen to what we have to say, but more people are listening than ever before – the more people who do speak up, the better the chances of changing things for the better.
I think more people with a learning disability should get involved with Mencap groups, self-advocacy groups and partnership boards. They give us opportunities to speak up, and I really believe in the phrase ‘nothing about us without us'.
Self-advocacy and volunteering
Once a week I go to Time For Action – a self-advocacy group in Scunthorpe. We discuss the issues that affect us and we then feed our thoughts and suggestions through to the partnership board. Our most recent work has been to try to make sure that the Learning Disability Development Fund is spent on things that help people with a learning disability.
As well as this, I volunteer as a classroom assistant at St Hugh's Secondary School. And once a week, I attend college where I take a life skills course. It helps me with things like healthy living and IT skills.
I do have a bit of leisure time left over. I like to use it to go to football training, attend Scunthorpe Rotary meetings, go to Gateway, watch some TV and read.
I haven't always been this busy and involved with so many things – I wasn't always as confident as I am now. I think the most important thing for me was getting a job, because it has given me a lot of confidence.
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