Self-Advocacy is speaking up for yourself. People with a learning disability and/or autism often find this easier as part of a supportive group. People’s voices can be stronger when they are together.
Our self-advocacy groups and events are about people with learning disabilities uniting to support each other to have a stronger voice. We organise groups, events and forums where people with learning disabilities choose the topics. Everybody has a chance to speak and people with learning disabilities can say what they want. If people want change then Lewisham Speaking Up will work on their behalf. We work with self-advocates, to try and get what they want.
Lewisham Speaking Up offers the following self-advocacy groups:
Lewisham People’s Parliament
Our People’s Parliament is our largest self-advocacy forum. It meets four times a year either online or in person and is focused on a particular theme chosen by people with learning disabilities.
Events usually have guest speakers and workshops. People who come have a chance to say what they want and what they want to change. A report capturing the views of people with learning disabilities is produced after each Parliament event and circulated widely.
Six People’s Parliament Reps are elected by their peers to become paid reps. Their job is to speak up and represent the views of people who attend the Parliament in the London Borough of Lewisham. The reps take the views and wishes of the Parliament to decision makers or people of influence in a bid to create changes that people want.
Our current reps are:
Weekly Zoom Group
The weekly zoom group was set up during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities could still be heard. The group is still running because people want it to, and not everybody is ready to return to in-person groups just yet.
The function of the group is to give people a regular voice about things that are important to them. Often there is a theme like the People’s Parliament and guests can attend to give information. The weekly zoom sometimes has the same purposes as the People’s Parliament.
Monthly Big Group
The monthly Big Group is for more independent people with a learning disability who get little or no statutory support. People come together once a month – usually at our base in Lewisham – to speak up about things that are important.
The Big Group also feeds into the People’s Parliament and often topics for the Parliament are decided in the group.
‘Bigger Voices’: Women's and Men’s Speaking Up Groups
Bigger Voices is our way of providing gender specific speaking up groups.
We have a speaking up group for women and a speaking up group for men. The groups were set up because people involved in Lewisham Speaking Up wanted them. There are some things that people can only speak about freely and confidently if they are in their own gender group, e.g. things about sex or things about the body. Sometimes, there are things that women want to talk about with women and men want to talk about with other men. The people who come are in charge of how their group operates: sometimes they have their group on Zoom; sometimes they meet at The Leemore Centre, sometimes they go out together.
Advocacy is also about speaking up about very big issues. Things that impact on the lives of all people with learning disabilities, no matter where they live.
Our People’s Parliament Reps are involved in campaigning. Often, what we campaign about comes from the People’s Parliament. Campaigning for us means joining forces with other self-advocacy groups and working together with bigger groups like Learning Disability England to bring about change.
Some things we are campaigning about at the moment are:
- Right2Home: Following on from the many disclosures of harmful abuse to people with learning disabilities and autistic people in secure hospitals or assessment and treatment units LSU is calling for all such places to be closed and for people to live in communities near their families, where they are safe and treated with respect and dignity.
- Digital Inclusion: We want all people with learning disabilities and autism to have online access (should they want it) and access to support and training to get online. We want people to have access to internet without having to get into debt because of it.
- Race and health inequality: in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation, Learning Disability England and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Lewisham People’s Parliament reps are part of a working group looking at the intersectional inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities from BAME backgrounds.
- Self Advocacy Works: Lewisham Speaking Up is part of a network of groups and individuals campaigning to raise the profile and importance of self advocacy to people with learning disabilities and their allies. We would like to see a self advocacy service in every area of the country.