British actor and Line of Duty star Tommy Jessop has today been announced as the latest Ambassador for Mencap - a UK learning disability charity.
Jessop, aged 36, hit the headlines last year playing Terry Boyle in the hit show Line of Duty. He was the first actor with Down’s syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama, playing Ben in Mark Haddon’s BAFTA nominated Coming Down the Mountain, following this with guest lead roles in Casualty, Holby City and other TV roles and radio plays for BBC Radio 4. Tommy is the winner of various Best Actor awards for his short films and also the first professional actor with Down’s syndrome to tour theatres as Hamlet and the first to become a full voting member of BAFTA.
In July 2021, Jessop received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Winchester for his services to the entertainment industry.
There are 1.5 million people in the UK who have a learning disability, many of whom face stigma and discrimination every day of their lives. Recent research from Mencap for its 75th anniversary revealed that two thirds of Brits don’t know what a learning disability is and two in five Brits (42%) have not seen someone with a learning disability in the media in the past year – one of the reasons for the lack of understanding in this country. The research also revealed that a third (33%) of people in the UK say they would feel more comfortable talking to someone with a learning disability if they saw them featured more often in the media.
Tommy plans to use his new position as Mencap Ambassador to get rid of the common perception that people with a learning disability cannot do certain things.
Speaking of his new role as Mencap Ambassador, Tommy Jessop says: “People with a learning disability should be able to do anything we want, for example getting married or being a role model for people to look up to. I am proud and honoured to be a Mencap Ambassador. I hope through this role I can help Mencap keep doing what they do best to carry on their really hard work in the future.”
Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “We are delighted to welcome Tommy Jessop as our Ambassador. Like the rest of the nation, I was gripped by the last season of Line of Duty and was delighted to see someone who has Down’s syndrome on such a popular and prime time TV show. It’s incredibly important because representation really does matter and I’m thrilled he’s joined the Mencap family.
“Having Tommy on board as an Ambassador is a great way to de-stigmatise and challenge misconceptions about people who have Down’s syndrome and/or who have a learning disability. He will also help us increase the visibility of people with a learning disability across the media and society to help transform attitudes. Our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to live a happy and healthy life if you have a learning disability and I look forward to working alongside Tommy to make this vision a reality."
Tommy joins George Webster, who last year made history when he became the first CBeebies presenter who has Down’s syndrome and Harvey Price who was born with Septic Optic Dysplasia, Prader-Willi syndrome, autism and a learning disability, as Mencap Ambassadors. More Ambassadors will be announced in the coming months.
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Notes to editors:
For further information or to arrange an interview with a Mencap spokesperson or case study, please contact Mencap’s media team on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7696 5414 (including out of hours).
There are approximately 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want: www.mencap.org.uk
For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email email@example.com.
What is a learning disability?
- A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which means that people might need support with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life;
- Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’;
- People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.