The UK's National Speaking Group ensures the inclusion of people 'with learning disabilities' in debates which affect their lives and communities.
Last October, Richard Keagan-Bull, spoke to the International Assembly of L'Arche in Kolkata, India about his role as Chair of the L'Arche UK National Speaking Group.
L'Arche has always been good at speaking on behalf of people who can’t communicate. This is a valuable skill, but it is not a substitute for including people in a decision making process. The UK's National Speaking Group was set up to ensure the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in debates which affect their lives and Communities.
"As an organisation which values difference, it was expected that delegates with a learning disability should play a role in The Assembly in India," says John Sargent, National Co-ordinator.
The charge of tokenism is easy to levy. Just by putting someone onto a group does not mean they understand the discussion. The whole thrust of the Mental Capacity Act is that capacity is decision specific; that people have the capacity to make some decisions but not others. It is important to recognise that people have a variety of abilities that allow them to join decision-making processes in various ways and at various levels.
People with learning disabilities have always been part of the decision-making process in their own L'Arche Communities. The traditional weekly 'House Night' grew from a desire to create a forum in which everyone could ‘own’ and share the plans for the week ahead.
Within their Communities in the UK, people with learning disabilities are involved in interviews and appraisals, monthly listening groups and Community councils.
In L'Arche Bognor the Committee meeting of local trustees always begins with a report from one of the people with disabilities living in the Community. In the Lambeth Community they have recently begun a newsletter written by people with learning disabilities, for people with learning disabilities.
In the first edition Richard Keagan-Bull talks about another recent trip, this time to Auschwitz.
"I think in life we should try and understand each other and work things out and never want war- just be happy with what we’ve got. It doesn't matter if you’re black or white, if you can speak or not speak-it’s what you can give that counts."
- - The National Speaking Group enables people with learning disabilities to have a say about things that affect their lives.
- - Some people with learning disabilities are able to make some decisions but not others.
- - People with learning disabilities are involved in lots of decision making in L’Arche Communities.