What we do

The Voices Council meets six times each year with an agenda of subjects due to be discussed by the board the following day.

Their views are then shared as the first item on the board's agenda the following morning.

Meet the Voices Council

Meet some of members of the Voices Council and hear why they wanted to take part.

Who's who

Click the heading below to reveal information about the different people who make up the Voices Council.

Meet the Voices Council

Sam Jefferies - Vice Chair

SamI live on the Isle of Wight. I joined the forum when it began in November 2015. I wanted to get involved in what Mencap was doing, like ‘hear My Voice’, and try to make a difference. I enjoy working with people from different parts of the UK, working as a team and helping each other out with our different skills. I have been involved in the Isle of Wight Mencap and other voluntary community organisations. I enjoy socialising with friends, going to music festivals, and I recently passed my driving test and bought a car.

Dave Taylor

DaveI live on the Wirral and joined the forum because I wanted to work together as a group to benefit people with a learning disability. I’ve been a member of Wirral Mencap for six years. I work at a donkey sanctuary as a farmhand assistant. In my spare time I help out with American wrestling shows, and I’m the Mencap national table tennis champion at the moment.

Karen Gray

KarenI live in North Lincolnshire and joined the forum to get involved in decision making. I enjoy meeting with people and getting to know them. I also co-chair the Learning Disability Partnership Board, and have been a representative at Changing Places meetings in Lincolnshire. I am also part of a Rotary group that meets together to discuss subjects and raise money for local charities. I work at Tesco and I like to do all sorts in my spare time

John Phillips

JohnI was a Mencap trustee from 2008 to 2017 and have been a volunteer since 1986, when I set up a social and leisure club on the Isle of Wight called ‘John's Club’. I have fostered children with challenging behaviour since 1993 in both short and long term placements. I was also awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to disabled people.

Barbara Norris

BarbaraI live in Belfast, and joined the forum when it began in November 2015. I wanted to share my opinions and stories to help Mencap provide better services for a wide range of people with mixed abilities. I enjoy mixing with other people and listening to what they have to say. I’ve been involved with the Downs Syndrome Association, several other Mencap groups, and a Big Lottery committee looking at grant applications for local charities and projects. I have jobs at IKEA, Starbucks and Mencap, and in my spare time I enjoy drama, choir, running, rugby and Slimming World.

Jack Welch - Chair

I live in Weymouth, Dorset. As well as being part of the Include Me group, I am a very active in a number of other organisations such as Ambitious About Autism, the National Children's Bureau and NHS England where I am an advisor for their Learning Disability and/or Autism Engagement Team. In my spare time I love reading, blogging and visiting new places at home and abroad. 

Aisha Edwards

AishaI live in London and joined the Voices Council in the summer of 2019 to get ideas and knowledge about how people with a learning disability can speak up. I think everyone should have a voice. Everyone is different and I enjoy getting to hear different people's opinions. I am also a member of Lewisham Speaking Up so I can help to share information. In my spare time I enjoy going out and chilling with family and friends.

Paul Savage

Paul SavageI’m Paul, I live in Sheffield and I’ve been an Inclusion Group member for the last 2 years, but I’ve been involved with Mencap for a lot longer. The Our Voices group gives me the chance to have my say about issues that are important to people with a learning disability, and I get to help shape some of the things that Mencap does. I’m really in to watching soap operas on TV and would like to see lots more people with disabilities on the TV and in the media.

Sara Pickard

I live near Cardiff in South Wales and have worked full-time for Mencap Cymru since 2008. I have volunteered in Lesotho and Botswana as part of my work, and was a speaker at the World Down's Syndrome Congress in South Africa in 2012. I was invited to speak at the House of Commons and the United Nations on health issues affecting people with Down's Syndrome in 2014. I am a trustee of my local Down's Syndrome Support Group, and in 2015 I was elected as the self-advocate representative for Europe on the Inclusion International organisation. I was also elected as an independent Councillor on my local community council 9 years ago. I enjoy acting, music and dance.


Our history

At the start of 2018 the group was re-named the Voices Council to reflect the major changes in their ambition and influence. In the summer of 2018 paid posts for a Chair and Vice-Chairs were created, with all the other members receiving an annual payment from Mencap in recognition of our valued contributions. Find out more about how this fits in with our BIG plan here.

I found the discussion with the Voices Council very valuable.  The insight they offered has really shaped my thinking about our approach to communications - Jackie O’Sullivan Executive Director of Communications

Our progress

Topics we’ve shared our views on have included:

  • Mencap’s statement on pre-natal screening
  • Mencap’s ‘Treat Me Well’ campaign
  • Mencap’s Personal Support strategy
  • Mencap’s approach to safeguarding
  • Mencap’s new communication strategy
  • all 5 of Mencap's key priority areas (early years, supporting adults, stigma and attitudes, friendships and relationships and health)
  • employment; which, following the Voices Council's reccomendation, the board agreed to make a sixth key priority area
  • joint visits to Mencap services with trustee partners
  • the way that Mencap evaluates their impact on people's lives
  • how Mencap could use the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon to help the public learn more about people with a learning disability
  • reviewing and amending Mencap's quality policy and complaints process
  • what Mencap should do about the big learning disability survey results 

Our projects

Click the headings below to find out about the different things that the Voices Council are working on and getting involved in.

Inclusion standards

True inclusion should not be something that happens in special 'inclusion' meetings at certain times, about specific 'inclusive' topics, separate from day to day life. True inclusion must be for everyone, everywhere, every day. Exclusion should only be applied on occasions that must be for special topics, at certain times, in particular meetings, separate from day to day life.

The Mental Capacity Act sets a helpful principle to follow. It assumes that people have capacity until a reason can be given that they do not have capacity to make a specific decision. In the same way, Mencap can assume that everyone should be included unless we can explain why we are excluding someone from a specific topic.

We've put together 7 inclusion questions for Mencap to ask people about their experience:

  1. Did I have enough time and a 'good' place for me to take part?
  2. Did I get the information I needed, with enough time to think about it, and ask any questions?
  3. Did I feel I was able to keep up and understand what everyone was saying?
  4. Did I have enough breaks to help me to concentrate and give my views?
  5. Did I feel that people understood my views?
  6. Did I have a chance to say how I found the discussion?
  7. Did I get honest and helpful feedback so I can get better at being involved?

We want to use these questions in all parts of Mencap. To begin we would expect them to be used at inclusion groups, the board and committees, the Mencap Trust Comany, any steering groups, and in any teams that includes a person with a learning disability (whether they are in a paid, volunteer or internship role).

Other activities

  • Joint service visits with trustees
  • Held a #LDWeek18 Mencap twitter take over
  • Gave a presentation at the 2018 Inclusion International World Congress.
  • For the first time Mencap's 2018 Annual Report will include a message from the Voices Council.
  • Some of the Voices Council have also been appointed as paid members of Mencap’s ‘Treat Me Well’ campaign and Inclusive Research steering groups.

Get in touch

We'd love to hear the views of as many other people as possible on these subjects. Apart from planning to recruit new members, we are also looking at using social media and an annual event to give people with a learning disability a louder voice in Mencap.


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Find out about the Treat Me Well steering group, which is a group of 15 people with a learning disability who advise Mencap’s Campaigns team.
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Our trustees

The people who have the most responsibility for how Royal Mencap Society is run are our trustee board. Meet our trustees here.
Read more about Our trustees