Supporting adults with a learning disability and autistic people to have their say

Sunderland People First lead an interactive workshop for local people they work with, looking at how to have their voice heard in Parliament.
A group of people holding posters looking at the camera


Working closely with Sunderland People First, Lynn Hobson, Outreach Officer with the UK Parliament Participation Team, facilitated two accessible workshops in Sunderland for people with a learning disability and autistic people, the first in late 2019 and the second in mid-2020.  Both sessions were a great success and led to a range of interactions with UK Parliament, including a meeting with a local MP to highlight issues that matter to the organisation and visiting the Palace of Westminster to support forward planning.  They will continue to work closely with Sunderland People First and the people they support, to help ensure that their voices can be heard within the UK Parliament in different ways.

The partner organisation

Sunderland People First was set up in 1994 as a self-advocacy group for people with a learning disability and autistic people.  Through its dedication and commitment, it has developed into a group that campaigns locally and nationally to champion the rights of people with learning disabilities and autistic people, and improve their lives.

The activity

In early December 2019, shortly before the General Election, Outreach Officer for the North East region, Lynn Hobson, was invited by Sunderland People First to lead an interactive workshop for local people they work with, looking at how to have their voice heard in Parliament.  It was a thoroughly engaging and accessible session, which generated some wonderful feedback.  Following on from the success of this first workshop, Lynn was invited to facilitate a second session in May 2020, this time focusing on petitions.

Taking steps to engage with Parliament

An e-petition was started, asking for the creation of a user-led, independent body to support the Care Quality Commission to monitor secure settings.  This was done to support a key campaigning goal of Sunderland People First – to stop the abuse of people with learning disabilities and autistic people in assessment and treatment units and long stay hospitals.  Even though the petition did not secure enough signatures to warrant an official response by the UK Government, Sunderland People First held a digital meeting with Julie Elliot MP (Sunderland Central), to seek support on the issues that matter to people with a learning disability and autistic people.

Having a say on Parliament’s future

Having formed a strong working relationship with Sunderland People First, the UK Parliament Participation Team invited members of the group to visit them at Parliament.  They provided valuable input on their forward planning for the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, giving expert advice on various aspects of accessibility that need to be addressed as part of this important programme.  Their work with partners such as Sunderland People First is critical to ensuring that Parliament's built environment and facilities are accessible, inclusive and entirely fit for purpose.

Staying in touch

Lynn and other members of the Outreach team remain in regular contact with Sunderland People First, helping them to explore different ways to have their voice heard at Parliament.

About the UK Parliament participation team

The participation team at UK Parliament works on behalf of both Houses to deliver world-class visitor services, outreach activities, educational programmes, learning resources and opportunities for the public to support Members’ parliamentary debates.  They promote Parliament’s unique role in our democracy, help to make Parliament relevant and accessible to all UK citizens, and show how people can get involved with Parliament’s work in different ways.

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