People with a learning disability have the right to live independently in the community, and to have the support needed to provide a safe, comfortable home. This is really important to Chris Reid. Here he shares what independence means to him, and how the pandemic has affected his journey toward it.
"Soon I’m going to be moving into a supported living placement. I would like to move so I can have a safe place to call home, to be able to socialise with others, and feel settled. I’m looking forward to it!
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried supported living. The first placement didn’t work out for me because two of the residents needed more support than I did, so it didn’t feel like I fitted in there. At another placement the manager was not very experienced, and I didn’t like it. Then the pandemic got in the way so I have been waiting a long time for another placement.
It’s not as easy as people think to get the right place. For me it’s about having the right support package tailored to my needs and wishes, so I hope my new place will be right for me and help my independence."
Being independent means I can learn to do some things by myself, but I just might need a bit more of support depending on what it is."
"I think it’s important for people with a learning disability to live independently if they can, so they don’t have to rely on their mum on dad for lot of things like cooking, showering, or tidying their room.
Having my own space where I can be independent and feel settled is important to me, because I live with a mental health diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It means I get high and very low periods, like mood swings. When I’m in my high state, I wear lots of clothes. And in my lows I find hard to talk to people and get out of the house.
There are things I do to help my mental health. I find writing really helps my mental health. Sometimes I write blogs like this one, but I have also started to write poetry now to express my feelings and get things off my chest.
I also run a lot; I’m an athlete who competes in 200m and 400m races, and will be running the London Marathon for Mencap this year. During the pandemic when I wasn’t allowed to go training my mental health got a lot worse. I had to get a letter from my consultant saying it’s very important for me to keep training.
The pandemic changed other things for me too. I used to go to a youth club, but it closed during the lockdown and didn’t re open. It made me feel ignored - there is a need for places for everyone to feel they belong, if you have a disability or not, all over the country. It’s so important for young people to have opportunities to socialise. For me, youth clubs gave me confidence to say “I can do this” to lots of things in life.
Now I go to a club in Walthamstow called Youthwave which is part of the Emmanuel Community Church International. I enjoy going there to meet my old friends and make new ones as well. I think it is very important for youth clubs and days services to reopen again, it should be a high up priority. For everyone, whether you have a learning disability or not, we all want to feel part of something with other people."