The Learning Disability and Autism Forum

27 June 2022

Community ConneX held a successful LDA Forum on 21 June. Over 80 guests came to learn more and share their views on the theme: empowering people for a safer community.

A great start to the day

After a cheery welcome and refreshments, David House and Charlotte Thomson introduced themselves as co-chairs and explained the day’s programme of events.

The forum  started with a “human bingo” ice-breaker. This enabled people from different backgrounds and professions to get to know more about each other. A positive and buzzing vibe set the tone for the rest of the day at North Harrow Methodist Church.

Police safety

Following on, Kristina Dvorakova and Sophie Dunford from the Headstone South Safer Neighbourhoods Team led a lively discussion on the safety issues experienced by people with a learning disability and autism. Community ConneX clients and supporters voiced safety concerns directly to the police. These concerns range from insecurity felt in public places to dissatisfaction with police response to crime.

Kristina and Sophie urged people to call 999 to report any incident that makes anybody feel unsafe. They explained that the police are given sensitivity and awareness training every six months so that they can respond appropriately to crimes reported by people with a learning disability or autism. Kristina pointed out that some people do not want to interact with police officers in a crowded space, others might feel anxious in different settings.

For less urgent issues, people were advised to call 101 or go directly to a local police station. Kristina and Sophie acknowledged that police stations in Harrow have been closed down with the exception of South Harrow Police Station on Northolt Road.

You can use these links to report crime

If you use British Sign Language, click here for a video explaining how to call 999.

Click here to learn about reporting hate crime.

Actions for safety

Ria Hawes, who works with Together ConneX at Pinner Green, demonstrated several actions that we can take if we are confronted with a physical threat to our safety. The first thing we should remember is that by showing open palms in a “W” shape (as in the picture below) and by shouting: “No! Stop! Go away!” our actions are viewed as defensive. Therefore, we cannot be accused of throwing the first punch.

Using Sandy Bowman as a potential attacker, Ria showed us defensive movements that we can learn by attending self-defence classes. Community ConneX is looking into the possibility of sessions tailored for our clients.

LD (Learning Disability) nurses

There is a clear need for more LD nurses such as Hellen Odiembo and Chris Greeno who share their workload across Northwick Park Hospital, Central Middlesex Hospital and Ealing Hospital. They urged people at the forum to use Health Passports. They stressed the importance of keeping this document updated and presenting it whenever they attend a GP or hospital appointment. However, some attendees pointed out that not all health professionals are familiar with health passports.

Hellen also asked people who have appointments that aren’t in a hospital setting to ask the health professional they see (GP, dentist, chiropodist etc.) to let the LD nurses know of this appointment. She went further and stressed that if you receive have an appointment for a health-related issue, call the LD team to let them know so that your name and your needs are recorded. The LD team’s number is 0208 869 3695 or 0208 869 5834.

Looking ahead together

Safety is everybody’s concern. Whether we have, or support, people with a disability or autism, or whether we have little to no contact with people who have a learning disability or autism, we all accept that nobody should experience harm or abuse of any kind.

The LDA Forum was a safe space for people to speak out. There were several standout moments at the forum when people’s voices rang clear and loud. We hope the professionals in the room took note of Brendan Chivasa who demanded to know how long he would be waiting for adjustments to his wheelchair. We hope that the police respond swiftly to help Laetitia Franklin and other victims of crime who shared their experiences. And we urge everybody to hear and respect Charlotte’s opening declaration: “Now I have a voice.”

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