Learning Disabilities Week

The theme of this years Learning Disability Week is We all have Human Rights.

We spend a lot of time in Neighbourhood Networks reflecting and considering people’s rights. We have a set of values in the organisation that reference important principles of equality, everyone’s voice being heard, having balance in life and being respected. These are core beliefs and form the basis of all the work we do.

Neighbourhood Networks also undertook a piece of work some years ago to develop a Charter of Rights with 4 themes:

Respect, Choice, Support and Safety

We outline in the charter what members of the networks can expect from the organisation when they join a network and this forms part of their introduction to membership. We revisit and review these principles on a regular basis to sense check that we are abiding by them.

The principles are simple in their concept but not always easy to fully uphold. Networks are made up of diverse groups of people, all with different life experiences and views. Challenges and conflict are part of network life while people navigate relationships with each other.

We must find a healthy balance of to respect the rights of individuals as well as managing complex group dynamics at times. Our members pulled together a few years ago to develop a Code of Conduct for everyone which helps to manage this balance and can be used to negotiate a positive change in relationships where things may become sticky.

Most recently we have engaged with Outside the Box who are facilitating sessions across the organisation to promote the Human Rights Act and how this can be used to make people’s lives better. They worked with Neighbourhood Networks to produce our own Biteable film which highlights this work and is a useful tool to imbed a human rights approach in what we do.

We don’t always get things right for people, but we can use these tools to step back and reflect where things could be better and try to bring about change.

It is a cycle that never stops but constantly evolves. It is challenging work and a big commitment but utterly fundamental to people leading healthy, included, and fulfilled lives, the whole point of Neighbourhood Networks’ existence. There are no short cuts to this work, but it is worth all the investment of our time and energy.

So yes, we all have human rights, and we commit to that exchange with each other to make our networks work for everybody. But that should not be just for stakeholders in Neighbourhood Networks. We also have a duty to highlight and promote the human rights of everyone in our communities. The New Routes Home Campaign is doing some essential work to campaign for people with learning disabilities stuck in the system.

At the recent Festival of Citizenship, we heard some profoundly disturbing stories from some mothers whose children are stuck in the hospital system (for 6 years in one set of circumstances) and where their basic human rights have been completely taken away.

It is a sharp reminder of the work we still need to do and the risks of complacency if we do not step up and challenge ourselves and each other. When it comes to Human Rights – All means All!