So, if you’re a regular to the Written Wheel site, you may know that I’m a committee member of Lincolnshire Young Voices. And if you’re one of the lucky few who are privy to the ramblings I post on Facebook, you’ll also be aware that last week, my friend and fellow LYV buddy, were asked to represent our group at the Making Participation Work: Children and Young People’s Conference in London. I know you want to zone out, click off this page and go for a cat nap at the mention of the word ‘conference’, but please don’t. Let me put you in the picture.
In 2017, the Lincolnshire Young Voices Committee was established in order to help the authorities within the county improve services for people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Our group is made up of folks who are in the system - otherwise known as the disability sector. Therefore, we think we’re the best people to be able to work alongside professionals and advise them as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to things like healthcare, social care and education. We’re honestly not as big-headed as I’ve just made us sound, but the reason our participation group was set up was that there wasn’t anything in Lincolnshire that enabled the voices of people with disabilities and additional needs to be heard. Without knowing the opinions and experiences of the disabled community, how is anything supposed to change for the better? Essentially, LYV is made up of individuals with a passion to empower others to have a say in the decision making of the services that affect them most.
Why were we invited to the conference? Well, the existence of the disability sector without participation would be like trying to build a house without cement. Participation is necessary to hold everything together. It’s at the core of disability rights and it’s the foundation of what Lincolnshire Young Voices want to achieve. The event, in its second year of running, brought together participation groups from across England. Funded by the Department for Education, the conference was designed to acquire a better understanding of young disabled people’s experiences of the services available to us. The conference was organised into a range of workshops which covered topics such as education, employment and why participation is fundamental in the disabled community.
Jointly delivering the conference were the Council for Disabled Children and KIDS who are big wigs in the disability sector. The CDC is an umbrella body who champion the rights of disabled children, overseeing three-hundred diverse member organisations that collectively represent and advocate all aspects of disability. With forty-five years of experience, the CDC has been working with young people, professionals and the government to bring the importance of participation to the forefront so an integrational society can become more of a reality.
Couple these values with KIDS’ succeeding mission to provide support to disabled children and their families, and you’ve got two well-matched organisations to host a conference. Last year, KIDS helped over 15,000 young people and families by focusing their services on three pivotal areas; play and leisure, learning and development and information advice and support. With a vision similar to the CDC, KIDS believe in a world where all disabled children and young people realise their aspirations.
From a personal perspective, I believe a conference like this will only reap its rewards when: We all identify that having multiple, valuable voices is the first step towards initiating a positive change. We all understand that sharing individual experiences is the path we need to take to reach the goal of disability inclusivity. But, above all, we all know that in order to truly make participation work within the disabled community, we have to inspire others to do the same. Time will tell whether this is the case.