Anna-Marie Garbutt, Health for All Time to Shine Community Learning Disabilities Project Coordinator tells us more about it.
Anne-Maire says: “The project has been running for almost a year and so far I have interviewed over 20 people and spoken to many more about the problems they face getting out and being more social.
Some of these people have been in supported living, some living with elderly parents and some who live independently.
The problems are not new, having enough staff to support them in their chosen activities, accessible transport, not knowing what there is to do, not feeling safe on public transport in the evenings and not having a friend to go with.
Thankfully the time has passed when people with a learning disability were locked up in a hospital, but much of the learning disabled community keeps itself to it’s self.
This is where I think things need to change.
In order to reduce isolation and loneliness we all need friends and to be involved within a community. Many Older People with Learning Disabilities do not have a friend just people who live in the same accommodation or go to the same day service.
We need to break down the barriers and the easiest way to do that is getting to know each other.
With this in mind I have started a Bee Friends Café afternoon which runs weekly on Thursdays 1-2.30pm at The Bridge Café in Cross Flatts Park in Beeston.
The Café is run by Health for All and is staffed by people with learning disabilities.
The aim of the Café is to provide a safe and welcoming space for older people with and without learning disabilities who might be feeling lonely or are socially isolated to have a chat and meet new friends. I invite people from the local community and people from the learning disabled community to mix together and get to know each other.
Relationships, friendships and social interaction can be difficult if you have a learning disability and my role and those of volunteers is to facilitate conversations and interactions. There are conversation starters on the tables and old photos of the local area to help with this
Ideas of things to do or not do will be instigated by those attending, though I do want to involve community groups and invite local services to come along.
I have also been putting information on the walls about disabilities. Explaining the difficulties associated with each one and why people are the way they are. This is very low key but hopefully will give people a better understanding.
Wanting to change the way the world sees people with a learning disability is not going to be a quick process. But every journey starts with the first step.
If we respect people with learning difficulties we would pay support staff more and we would then get the right people who care and don’t sit on their phones whilst supporting.
If we respect people with learning disabilities we would welcome them into our community groups and chat to them in the pub.
As I am a one person project my aim is to pollinate ideas between organisations, looking at using what we have differently, to better suit the need. Using volunteers, possibly tapping into the vast student population in Leeds is one idea. Communicating between staff to find people with similar interests across Leeds who might be able to share the costs of support and transport, across different organisations, we have technology let’s use it.
I’m sure there are many people out there who are coping by themselves but with the right support could lead much more fulfilling lives.
With this in mind I am trying to raise awareness for learning disabilities via Twitter.
So please pollinate these ideas, think about how you could do things differently and if it works tell people.”
Thanks Anne-Marie, that’s really inspiring. You can find out more about the cafe and its activities here or follow twitter @BeeLeeds