We must do it for ourselves

When Valuing People and the National Forum of people with learning
difficulties was started by the government, my friends and I
thought “what a revolutionary idea”. The forum is now making a
difference and we are making some big changes too, mainly thanks to
the support from the people that the Department of Health has
arranged to help us.

But while we are trying to do a good job, the government appears to
be tightening the purse strings, and the budget for implementing
Valuing People is slowly dwindling.

The phrase “spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar” immediately
comes to mind. What makes me see red is that this government is
prepared to spend millions of pounds on bombing Iraq and the only
other country to agree with it is the US.

I think we should spend more of our wealth on the well-being of our
own population.

People with learning difficulties have never been a priority.
Health secretary Alan Milburn, at the National Social Services
Conference last month, admitted as much when he said you can only
have so many priorities and people with learning difficulties were
not one of them.

I think that in years to come we will see right through the
selfishness of governments that have never given us a second
thought. They only do something when it is beneficial to them, and
if it’s not, they don’t bother.

With these previous actions – how can governments be trusted on our
behalf to fund Valuing People properly and make it happen? How will
they give people with learning difficulties a fair chance in
society? A chance to contribute, as we all have something to give,
and the chance to belong. We don’t want to be excluded. We are all
human and we want our fair share as most disabled people are poor
and this limits our horizons, hopes and dreams.

We are not a drain on the economy, but people can make us out like
that because they choose to!

So it’s down to us to demand what we want. We can get justice. We
want equal rights. We want jobs. We want good health care, decent
housing, equal education, good public transport. I will continue to
fight through the National Forum and the learning disabilities task
force for the rights of all people with learning difficulties.

Brian White is co-chairperson of the government’s National
Forum of people with learning difficulties.

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