People with learning difficulties are in a good position to stop abuse

It’s disgraceful. It’s terrible. It shouldn’t happen. We have heard about three places in England where they are investigating abuse of people with learning difficulties. We think the people who have been doing the bad things should be prosecuted for cruelty under the human rights laws.

When hospitals employ staff they should make sure the applicants are checked and monitored. How could anyone think it is right to hit someone, tie them up or starve them when they have a learning difficulty? We think if someone talks badly to people, they don’t act in a kind way.

So what can we do?

We think people with learning difficulties like us can take a bigger role to make sure things like this do not happen.

We are part of a group that has visited homes run by the organisation that give us our support. We wrote a questionnaire to find out what life was like. We asked: Do you get the support to go out when you want and what sort of places do you go to? What time do you go to bed and get up? By visiting the homes and chatting to the people who live there and the staff, we can see how people with higher support needs are treated. We found that the staff in the homes were kind and friendly and we feel that people were treated with respect and kindness. We can find out better than professionals what people with learning difficulties think about their homes and support because people can talk to us when they might be scared to talk to their staff.

We are also doing training so we can help interview for new staff. We are learning all about job descriptions and person specifications and how to do interviews. We need to make clear to new staff that they can’t go round bullying and abusing people. They need to do a good job which is to support the people with learning difficulties to have a good life. If we can make sure this happens then we hope we will never again hear of abuse like that reported recently.

Mabel Cooper and Vivienne Pittway are self-advocates living in supported living in Croydon, south London

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