Sheffield Voices - Calling for a voice for disabled people

The Sheffield Voices self-advocacy group #SpeakUp about the treatment of people with learning disabilities through the pandemic. They want disabled people to be listened to by those in charge of local services
Young woman with learning disabilities doing work on her laptop

Sheffield Voices is a self-advocacy group for people with learning disabilities, run by people with learning disabilities themselves. They work under the Disability Sheffield umbrella.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the group have felt increasingly frustrated about the support on offer to disabled people, and not feeling their experiences, concerns, and ideas were being listened to. They used our #SpeakUp grant funding to explore this in more detail.

People have suffered with poor mental health

Most people said they've experienced low mood, loneliness, or poor mental health during Covid-19. Some even said their mental health had spiraled, and they had needed to seek support from The Samaritans.

Many of us experienced feelings of isolation during lockdown, but this lasted even longer for some people with a learning disability. Those in supported living said that they were still under restrictions when other people in the community were allowed to go out and about. This made them feel "angry and confused".

People largely received support for their mental health, as well as their wider health and wellbeing, from their family and friends. Where people told us about more formal support, it was normally to say that it had fallen away during the pandemic, or they didn't have enough support for their needs.

Unclear rules and restrictions were even more difficult for people with a learning disability

People said that a lack of clarity about Covid-19 guidance - such as whether or not to wear a face covering - made things very confusing for them.

Some disabled people cannot wear a face covering, and the group said that a lack of understanding about face coverings in the general public led to discrimination and uncomfortable situations for them.

Disabled people's voices aren't being listened to

The most prominent message to come out of the group discussions was that disabled people's voices aren't being listened to.

Sheffield Voices members were concerned that there wasn't a lot of news coverage about people with a learning disability, and that news updates about Covid-19 didn't have British Sign Language interpreters. They felt that this was a sign that disabled people's experiences were not being considered, and that information was being produced without them in mind.

The group have a serious message: if the experiences, concerns, and ideas of disabled people aren't listened to, then they will not get the right support. In the worst cases, disabled people will experience harm that could have been avoided.

What next?

Thanks to the experiences and ideas of Sheffield Voices members, we have shared findings and recommendations with the people who design, pay for, and provide services.

We want to work together to achieve better outcomes for people with a learning disability, and support them to have their say (and be listened to) on issues that matter to them.

Find out more

To read about people's experiences in more detail, as well as the recommendations we've made for improvement, read the full report:

Lead photo: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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Photo 3: Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

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