Press reports featuring people with learning disabilities tend not to be about good things. Many stories are deeply upsetting and, of course, need to be highlighted and investigated and changes made. But I think we should also be able to read about the many positive stories about those with learning disabilities, what they achieve and their aspirations.
There are some highlights of course – during the 2012 Paralympics there was some tremendous coverage of the personalities and achievements of people with a learning disability. The recent Commonwealth Games continued the good work. It had the biggest-ever number of Para-Sports Medals in Commonwealth Games History – 22 Medal events in total and was excellent at helping to showcase that those with a learning disability want to compete and succeed. But when big events are over, normal life resumes and rarely makes headlines – but perhaps it should.
More independence, choice and control for over 800 people with learning disabilities through supported living with Affinity Trust are happening every day. We help the people we support, whatever the complexity of their needs, to enjoy stability and great quality of life. Affinity Trust has a good track record of assisting those who have previously needed to move regularly due to placement breakdown to be much more settled. Over a third of the people we support have had stable accommodation for at least five years. Most of the people we support are part of their local community, and many take part in activities such as acting, singing, DJing, craft, learning an instrument and sports, whilst others work either on a voluntary or paid basis. Many of our staff has supported the same person for a number of years. Parents frequently express their delight in the way their son or daughter has blossomed in a supported living environment.
Not all the people we support watched the Para Sports at the Commonwealth Games, (although many did), because it’s up to them what they like to do. And that is the positive news coverage I would like to see – that people with learning disabilities are being supported to live the life they want.