Tag Archives: social isolation

Building an inclusive society #LDWeek19

This week is Learning Disability Week. The theme is sport and inclusion.

According to a Mencap survey of 18-35-year-olds, one-third spend less than an hour outside of their homes on a Saturday. Many feel isolated, excluded and lonely. Can you imagine only getting out for an hour and being at home the rest of the day? 49% of the survey respondents want to get out more but can’t.

We have 1.4 million people with learning disability in the UK. They are often marginalised and misunderstood. A lot of work still needs to be done to break down the stigma around learning disability.

Enabling those with learning disability to join in leisure activities such as sport has many benefits. It improves mental and physical health, helps build self-worth and confidence and improves communication and social skills. Additionally, including people with learning disability in leisure provision breaks down barriers and improves social attitudes towards learning disability. Misconceptions around learning disability exist because many people have not met or interacted with someone with a learning disability.

Positive direct contact with people with a learning disability is an effective way of improving attitudes towards them. We found that an inclusive sports programme helped to challenge negative views of people with a learning disability, and created bonds between the participants with and without a learning disability.

As some regular readers will know, I chair the board of the Fragile X Society. Fragile X is the leading genetic cause of learning disability. The Society works to raise awareness of Fragile X and its range of effects on intellectual ability. I have learned a lot, and continue to grow as a person, through my interaction with those with Fragile X.

Building an inclusive society is about having relationships with people who are not like us. It is about being willing to explore and wonder at the gifts every one of us brings to our communities. One lady with Fragile X has the most fantastic sense of humour. She doesn’t get maths, but she can be hilarious, loves the theatre and shopping. Another man loves to talk, go out for meals and kick a football around. Getting to know the person and seeing beyond the disability is key. It enriches all of our lives.

Mencap is running a new survey for adults with learning disability. Here is a link if you or someone you know would like to take part.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Hungry children are suffering, here in the UK

I’ve been doing a bit of work in my constituency about the effects of Universal Credit on local people, the rising use of Food Banks, and the inadequate funding given to rural schools in North Devon.

With that perspective, I was dismayed but not surprised to read a recent article highlighting the social exclusion experienced by children living in poverty.

This is personal for me – I grew up in a military household, having enough to live on but not a lot, and when my father left the forces, we were poor for a couple of years until he retrained and got another job. For those years, I felt excluded. I wore hand-me-downs and home-made clothes. I didn’t fit in as we had moved into a rural community from outside the country. My accent was funny, my safety net of having friends from military families on base was gone, and I was bullied. Things settled down, but I will never forget that first year of leaving the ‘family’ of military life and entering civilian life as an 11-year-old child. But I was never hungry.

The new study by University College London, Living Hand to Mouth, published yesterday, looks at the impact hunger has on children’s lives. As readers will know, free school meals have been cut back by the Conservative Government. It is Lib Dem policy, however, to reinstate free school meals for all those on Universal Credit and, further, that all primary school children regardless of their income level should have a free school meal. Nutrition is ever so important for learning. A healthy child is one who can flourish and absorb knowledge. A hungry one can not.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments

The January Blues: Loneliness

After the hype of Christmas and New Year’s there comes the annual collective let-down. Absolutely normal after super-charged activity and lots of parties, but what about those who have loneliness as a constant companion?

Before I pontificate, I should declare I enjoy self-imposed loneliness. I am a pianist, and some of my happiest days are when I see no-one at all.  Difficult to explain to a non-musician. There was a recent Christmas where I left the family with the in-laws, and came home to my studio for 8 days of uninterrupted work. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments
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