As today is International Day of People with Disabilities I thought I'd share a few reflections on how some pro bono work I've been doing with The Aldinbourne Trust, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities/autism to reach their potential, has opened my eyes to an area of social care that doesn't receive nearly the focus it deserves.
It seems to me that most of the current attention and discussion around social care focuses on elderly care or people in institutions. Yet, there are 1.1 million people living with learning disabilities in the UK alone, who touch the care sector for many decades and are heavily impacted by the huge social care funding gap that has emerged. Adults with learning difficulties face lifelong challenges and inequalities; their health outcomes are poorer. On average women with a learning disability have a shocking 18-year lower life expectancy than the general population and with only 5% of people with a learning disability in employment, there is a tragic failure to recognise their capacity to be fully contributing to our society - to embrace them as equals. I have seen how people who work in social care are tackling the narrative of deficit and turning it on its head to one of strengths and opportunity.
What I’ve found inspiring about The Aldingbourne Trust is their focus on ability rather than disability. The Trust supports over 1500 people a year with learning disabilities. Managing Director Sue Livett explains, "We work alongside people who have a learning disability/autism to get and keep jobs, to have homes where they choose, to follow their interests, spend time with people they care about, have health needs addressed and generally experience life’s ups and downs." The Aldingbourne Trust demonstrates the power of social care, support which is often invisible but plays a vital part in people’s lives.
So, as we discuss diversity and inclusion and when we vote for our national and local leaders who will shape the focus and implementation of the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament, let’s consider our responsibility to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most marginalised people in our society who need support so they can share equally in the daily experiences the rest of us take for granted. We are surely all interdependent – as the saying goes – “ you, me, we “.
If you'd like to learn a little more about the work of The Aldinbourne Trust, I'd highly recommend taking a look at their website. If you are looking for a different way to engage in DEI, your skills may be invaluable to organisations like this who make a real difference to the people that they support.