Yesterday (Tuesday 7 March 2017) Tessa Bolt has made history as the first known person with Down’s Syndrome to give oral evidence to a parliamentary committee.
A resident of Mencap’s housing arm, Golden Lane Housing, Bolt gave evidence about supported housing to the joint Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government Select Committee who are assessing the Government’s plans to overhaul the supported housing sector.
When the Government announced its proposed plans to localise funding for supported housing in September 2016, Mencap and other charities voiced concerns this could lead to a postcode lottery, worsening the housing crisis already facing many people with a learning disability.
Tessa Bolt’s evidence is a landmark moment for people with Down’s Syndrome, ensuring their voices and concerns are central to decision making processes that affect them. Bolt lives in Golden Lane Housing supported housing with two housemates who also have a learning disability.
Tessa Bolt said:
“I am really looking forward to giving evidence to The Parliamentary Committee. I love politics and have met with my MP and been to lobby’s so it’s really exciting to know that I’ll be the first known person with Down’s Syndrome to give evidence to a parliamentary committee. It’s great knowing that I am going be a part of history and I hope more people with a learning disability give evidence in the future.
“Supported housing is something that I am really passionate about and I am really happy that the committee will get to hear about it from someone who has a learning disability and uses supported housing. I love my home, I have really lovely housemates and have learnt so many new skills since moving. Supported housing gives me security and it lets me be independent, something everyone with a learning disability should have.”
Helen Hayes MP, member of the Communities and Local Government Committee and joint chair of the inquiry, said:
“It is important that the Committees speak to people with direct experience of living in supported housing if we are to fully understand the issues facing the sector. We very much look forward to hearing from Tessa and other tenants about why they live in supported housing and how it helps them to live independently.”
Rob Holland, Parliamentary Manager at Mencap, said:
“The Government’s proposals to change funding for supported housing have cast a cloud of uncertainty over the sector. Providers have either cancelled or postponed the building of new specially adapted properties for disabled people, despite the demand increasing. This risks more people with a learning disability at risk of living in inappropriate settings, such as inpatient units, where there is an increased risk of abuse and neglect.
“It’s therefore hugely encouraging for people with a learning disability that a Parliamentary Committee heard evidence from someone with a learning disability who is currently living independently, in no small part due to supported housing. We hope that Tessa is the first of many people with a learning disability to be listened to on this issue.”
According to both Mencap and The Communities and Local Government Select Committee there is no evidence to suggest that any other person with Down’s Syndrome has given evidence to a parliamentary committee before Tessa Bolt.
There are 1.4 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.
For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.
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.
Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.