Our Trip to London by Emma Beckett
Total Communication Services CIC is a Community Interest Company aiming to promotecommunication, choice, personalisation, and the emotional wellbeing of people withlearning disabilities. We would like to tell you about our trip to London to campaign forcommunication rights with Bury People First, a self-advocacy group from Bury, and ElysiumGateway, a recovery centre in Widnes.
Alison Emma and Rhiannon from Total Communication Services CIC travelled to London with self-advocates and staff from Bury People First to campaign for communication rights for people with learning disabilities.
We arrived on Sunday 26th June 2022 and started our trip with some sight seeing on an open-top bus, followed by some food and drinks, and a good night’s sleep before our trip to Parliament.
Monday 27th June, we had a big breakfast and set off for Parliament. We met up with staff and self-advocates from Elysium Gateway Recovery Centre, and Speech and Language Therapist Neil Thompson from Commtap, who were joining us to campaign for communication. When we arrived, we were taken on a tour of Parliament.
We expected to be trying to stop MPs walking through the lobby to talk to them about our project, the Communication Rights Charter, so we were surprised to be invited to a Committee Room in the building by James Daly, our local MP (Bury North), and to be told that people had appointments booked to come to see us.
The people who came to see us in the Committee Room were:
Robert Halfon: Minister of State for the Department of Education; MP for Harlow
Jeremy Hunt: Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; MP for South West Surrey Jake Berry: Minister of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government; MP for Rossendale David Johnston: Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Education; MP for Wantage Joy Morrissey: Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister; MP for Beaconsfield.
We took the poster that we made for the Communication Rights Charter. This is based on Scope Australia’s Communication Bill of Rights. We developed this poster because the self-advocates felt as though the Communication Bill of Rights would work well as a communication policy document, but they didn’t think it was accessible for people with learning disabilities. Self-advocates with learning disabilities were consulted about all of the images in the poster below, and Angie, our graphic artist, made these bespoke images based off the feedback from the self-advocates, to ensure that the images were accessible and meaningful.
We used the opportunity to speak to those who came to visit us about acknowledging the right to communicate as a human right. We expressed that recognising different ways of communicating should be respected and embedded into our culture. We suggested that training in communication should be delivered consistently to people who are responsible for others, including the emergency services, and that quality improvement in services and schools should be monitored and assessed by people with learning disabilities and autism, as usually, they are the ones who have the lived experience of their communication rights not being met.
One of the self-advocates, Rebecca, expressed her passion for consistent access to communication aids for people who need them, and another self-advocate, Matthew, talked about sign-supported speech and how this was important to him.
As our colleagues from Elysium Gateway Recovery Centre also joined us, this was a prime opportunity to talk about the amount of people with autism and learning disabilities who are detained in hospital unnecessarily, a subject of particular interest to Jeremy Hunt, who was actually on his way to talk about this subject at Parliament on the day.
We feel confident that we made an impact in Parliament by speaking up for the right to communicate, and it made us feel proud (and a little emotional!) to hear James Daly say, “you have really started something here today”.
Rebecca ensured that Joy Morrissey took some of our posters with her to Number 10 so that our Prime Minister could see our work and our ambitions for the project.
James Daly took the rest of the posters and ensured that he would pass them along to other MPs to spread the word further.
It would be really helpful if you could share our social media posts so that we can reach even more people, and to sign and share our petition to get communication seen as a human right!
Link to Petition: https://chng.it/KbVqzBw2rp
Total Communication Services CIC
Bury People First