Voting and Politics

Today the UK will vote on whether we want to stay in the European Union (EU).

It is a very important vote and we hope that lots of people with learning disabilities will have their say.

But we know that political discussions like these are full of jargon and not very accessible.

Now is a good time to think about how people with learning disabilities get involved in politics and how easy or hard it is for them to get involved.

Here Gary Bourlet answers some questions about politics.

gary houses of parliament
Are you voting in the referendum today?

I am voting in the referendum today, a referendum does not come around very often, not like elections. So I will be voting for what I believe in.

Why are you voting?

It’s important that I vote because I want to, because I care about this country and the direction we are going.

Why is it important that people with learning disabilities vote on issues like this?

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Gary Sheila cropped

First week of Learning Disability England

The Launch

On Tuesday 14th of June we launched Learning Disability England (LDE) at the House of Lords with about 150 people crammed in a marquee on the River Thames. There were so many people there it was hard to speak to everyone individually.

Baroness Sheila Hollins made a good speech and introduced me.

I started by cracking a few jokes at the beginning to relax myself and also everyone in the audience. I welcomed everyone and gave my speech.

In my speech I said:

“We have a good team of people to make this happen

We are in this together and also stronger together

For far too long we have been working separately and our voices have not been strong enough on our own to make change

To make change we need to work with others.”

It was great to finally launch Learning Disability England after working on it for so long.

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We’re launching Learning Disability England

megaphone without border

For a long time People First England has been working on setting up a new organisation.

On Tuesday we will launch Learning Disability England along with other self-advocates, families and organisations.

We are now @LDEselfadvocate on twitter and LDE Self-Advocates on facebook.

Here are Gary Bourlet’s thoughts as we prepare to launch Learning Disability England.

LDE is important because we want Self-Advocates to work closely with families, carers and organisations that work with people with learning disabilities, to come together and work together.

For far too long we have been working separately and our voices have not been strong enough on our own to make change.

To make change we need to work with others.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Being an independent organisation is an important part of LDE for me. It will be steered by people, families and organisations.

We will campaign on what our members agree on and vote on what issues are important to us.

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Southern Health Trust

Today Southern Health Trust made a statement to Sara Ryan and her family saying they were very sorry for Connor’s death.You can read the statement from Southern Health Trust here.

They said it was their fault because they neglected him. We were relieved to read this but wonder why they took so long to say sorry properly. Connor’s family have had to wait 3 years for this and have had to go through hell.

We wonder why they did not talk about how badly the family have been treated by the Chief Executive, Katrina Percy, some of their staff and some of their board. We wonder how so many people who do their jobs badly still have them and get paid so much money.

They also said that Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the Justice for LB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way. We think that the Justice for LB campaign has done more than any other campaign to make people think about human rights and all people with learning disabilities.

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Loneliness for People with Learning Disabilties

We’ve been talking to lots of different people as we create Learning Disability England and one of the things that people are saying they’re worried about is loneliness. Loneliness can be a disability in itself.

Loneliness is something that I have experienced. Even though I used to be married I lived in a place called Worstead which was a very small village. The nearest shops were about ten miles away. I was lonely and didn’t have a job, I had to rely on my wife at the time for getting out and about.

Like me other people with learning disabilities have to rely on other people to get out and about. If you haven’t got any services around you it can be very difficult. If you can only go out to the shops about once a week that’s really difficult. Public transport is essential.

This has a mental effect on you.

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The Why Workshop

The Why Workshop was a day where people, families and organisations came together to discuss what we want Learning Disability England to do.

Here are Gary Bourlet’s thoughts about the day.



The day began with Jackie Downer and David Towell welcoming everyone.

Jackie said this would be hard work and difficult, but we must work together.

We showed a video about the journey of Learning Disability England.

You can watch the video here.

I opened on What is Learning Disability England? The story so far from a self-advocate.

Sheila Moorcroft spoke on behalf of parents and Alicia Wood spoke on behalf of Organisations.

The Learning Disability England steering group had explained where we are in creating Learning Disability England.

We have to say a big thank you for Joe McDaniel from Skillnet who did the illustration drawings which there is few people in England who do this and we need more illustrators.

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Missing in the Media

Gary Bourlet being filmed

People with learning disabilities are missing in the media. You hardly see people in new stories or documentaries. Lots of things that should be in the news are swept under the carpet. And then when there is a story about learning disabilities it’s non-disabled people who are speaking about it. And it usually comes out negative.

For far too long, we’ve had people speaking on behalf of us. That’s not the voice of people with learning disabilities and what they talk about is not necessarily what people with learning disabilities want to talk about.

I think that the more people with learning disabilities speaking in the media, the better.

Speaking up in the media will help people with learning disabilities learn skills and it will make them more confident.

Speaking up in the media helped me get better and better – my confidence grew and I gained more self-esteem. I wasn’t afraid to speak up.

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Response to the Mazars Report

Today the Mazars report came out.

The report is an investigation into the deaths of people with learning disabilities who were under the care of Southern Health Trust.

You can read the Easy Read version of the report here.

This is Gary Bourlet’s response to the report.



Reading about the deaths of people under the care of Southern Health Trust made me feel very sad.

Somehow you go past being angry to being more sad.

Our condolences go out to all the families who have been affected by this.

There should be a memorial for people who’ve died in these places.


What the report says


The report found only 1 per cent of deaths in learning disability services were investigated.

I think this is wrong.

It’s important for organisations like Southern Health to be better because they’re supposed to be looking after people.

It’s also important that when organisations like Southern Health do things wrong, people should feel able to speak out about them.

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Learning Disability England

Gary Bourlet explains what Learning Disability England is and why he thinks we should create this new organisation. 

Learning Disability England is a coming-together of people with learning disabilities, their families and organisations.

People First England is working with Housing & Support Alliance to create this new organisation.

H&SA came and spoke to me in 2012 and said that they wanted to help make People First England happen. They wanted to help make it a success.

Different charities and organisations and individuals put in money to make People First England happen.

We wanted People First England to become a big independent organisation but this couldn’t happen because we didn’t have enough money.

People First England continued as a project under the Housing & Support Alliance umbrella.

There is an Australian campaign called Every Australian Counts.

We decided that we wanted to bring this model to England.

It’s about self-advocates, families and organisations coming together but still having their own identity.

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A Response to the National Audit Office Report

This blog post was written by Gary Bourlet and was originally published on 03.02.15.

People First England responded to the HSCIC Learning Disability Census. Here is what we said: 

1. The Winterbourne programme has not worked and we are still being treated like third class citizens

The Winterbourne programme has been going for more than 3 years. It is high profile and there is a minister responsible for it but it hasn’t changed anything much. They have said the right things but whatever is happening they are not making a difference. None of this is new. People with learning disabilities continue to be treated like 3rd class citizens, which has been going on for decades.  Until society treats us the same, nothing will change.

We think it has been a waste of taxpayers money.  It is not money well spent. There has been too much bureaucracy, too many people in offices doing too much paperwork but not enough work on the ground.

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Connor Sparrowhawk – Gary’s video statement transcript

What happened to Connor was dreadful, very sad. A young man who was looking forward to the rest of his life died in a unit without any support whilst he was in there. He should’ve had the right support at the right time. He was used as, just as a patient, and not as Connor. Connor should’ve had his own help and own support and his own needs and wants needed. This is happening not just to Connor but to other people who have been in units before. And these units are stemmed from big institutions, and asylums which we would like to see closed. And we want to see these big institutions and asylums closed so people like Connor could be part of society and be part of the community we all want to live in.

The units and day centres like that are actually like workhouses and they were part of big institutions and asylums since the Victorian times.

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Gary’s Speech #HSA2014

Three score years and nine ago the welfare state was formed. A vision of Britain as Jerusalem for all, a beacon of hope in a country battered and bruised by the ravages of war. Principles so important that despite the crippling debt of the post war years, our grandfathers and grandmothers made sure their dream of a society caring for all was a priority.

Despite two world wars and countless people disabled in the pursuit of justice it took another 25 years for disabled people to begin our own long march to freedom..

And so we’ve come here today to dramatise a shameful condition. A condition which means that our people, our loved ones are still not free.

Because 7 decades later, not all disabled people are free. 7 decades later, the lives of those with learning disabilities are still crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

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Kali’s Friday Feedback

It has been a very busy week for us at People First England. I started work properly last week – we have hit the ground rolling! Working from home is great but it relies on technology. It’s been very difficult this week without a working phone – it’s a good job I have good neighbours who lent me their broadband password.

This week was also the start of the #JusticeForLB campaign. Gary and I made a video together about what happened to Connor Sparrowhawk (Connor’s nickname was LB, Laughing Boy). Gary is a very good speaker, I need to learn to be a better video editor to keep up with him!

We have also been planning our media training for self advocates and the competition for self advocates to go to party political conferences and campaign on the issues they choose.

We had some very exciting news about a project we are working on with United Response.

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