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As we approach Referendum Day, we are publishing the results of a continuous opinion poll we have been conducting over the last year.
At LDAS we were determined that people with learning disabilities should have every chance to be involved in the political debate in Scotland in the run up to the referendum. We weren’t going to be satisfied calling for more information to be published and leave it to people to work through themselves. The referendum have seen a range of communities traditionally hard to engage with actually coming forward and taking part in the debate with their own questions and views. Why should people with learning disabilities be any different.
We ran 52 workshops with more than 700 people looking at issues surrounding independence and how to vote. We travelled from Ellon in the north to Newton Stewart in the south of Scotland speaking to groups. We started from the basis that there should be no “understanding” test. We also wanted to make sure people with learning disabilities could explore a range of ways of deciding and more complicated issues.
The workshops were shaped by groups of people with learning disabilities in Stirling and Glasgow and then continually refined by the comments and questions from people taking part. While neither the yes or no camps published 'easy read' information until late into the campaign, some of our activist groups prepared their own using the top ten questions raised by people in the groups. Others went off to the Scottish parliament to interview Labour's Jackie Baillie who runs the cross-party group on learning disabilities and the SNP's Joan McAlpine whose sister has Down’s syndrome. They made a short video http://tinyurl.com/LDASinterview outlining what difference the referendum would make for people with learning disabilities.
Those taking part found the workshops fun with lots of questions to think about. Who likes Flower of Scotland and who likes God Save The Queen. Who thinks that losing the pound is a good reason for voting no? Will the oil make us rich? Everyone got a voting handset, just like in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and the answers came up on the screen. We knew we were on to a winner when someone told us – “you’re better than that lot on the telly".
But this wasn’t information being delivered from above. The workshops were continually changed depending on feedback from the people taking part. The participants told us what they wanted to know more about and then we went to both Yes Scotland and Better Together to get the answers. A video was produced http://tinyurl.com/Ldvoices with 20 people with learning disabilities giving their opinion on the referendum and used to help people decide.
But this is not just about the referendum, it is the latest stage in a process of growing engagement of people with learning disabilities with mainstream issues. At more and more of the later workshops people have been coming along wearing campaign T Shirts and badges and telling us they have been out campaigning, helping in leafleting and some are even going to the official vote count.
And the results: 37 workshops went for Yes, 10 for No and 5 were a dead heat and with the total count being
Yes - 400 (55.5%)
No - 207 (28.7%)
Don’t Know - 114 (15.8%)
We hope that whatever the result that people will still carry on being engaged and connected. There is a lot to sort out
We are really pleased to tell you that a number of groups have helped to from the Learning Disability Alliance in England. There is no direct connection with the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland but they too will be a campaigning body and we look forward to working with them on any areas where we have joint concerns.
The Campaign for a Fair Society in England has come together with three other organisations to establish the Learning Disability Alliance:
- People First England, which represents people with learning disabilities
- Bringing Us Together, which represents families
- Housing & Support Alliance, which represents community organisations and professionals
Our July newsletter has just been published. You can download a hard copy of it by clicking here or you can listen to a copy of it by clicking it here or you can right click to download and listen later.
Each of the articles are available on line if you want to read them that way.
The lead article is the fact that people from black and minority ethnic projects lose out in getting access to services. Research shows that a much smaller proportion f the BME community access support and services than do white Scottish people. A recent project has shown how some of this problem can be solved.
Our second article is on the legacy of the Commonwealth Games which started this week. While we wish it well and many of our members have taken part in the baton relay or are currently volunteering at the Games, there are real concerns that there will be little long term benefit for disabled people.
Health and Social Care Integration are the feature of our third article. This is the latest buzz in social work. But will it lead to more than just a few more well paid jobs for the boys (and girls) who will run the process. We express some concerns.
We really pleased to be able to announce copies of two new Easy Read documents on the arguments for and against Independence. These will help people with learning disabilities make up their mind about what they would like to do in the referendum on September 18th.
The first is from the Better Together campaign and summarises the reasons why Scotland should stick together with the rest of the UK.
The second is from the Scottish Government and summarises the White Paper on Scotland.