True Partnerships at Values into Action

Mark Brookes is a project worker with Values into Action

I met Joanna when she joined Values Into Action (VIA) about six years ago. She started working on the advocacy project and knew her stuff.

We worked together when we went to meet a group to tell them about the project. Then Joanna moved on to another project that was about hate crime. Over the next couple of years we did workshops on hate crime to the police and other groups all over the country. The police are starting to record hate crimes, but if there are no figures that means people with learning disabilities are not reporting because they don’t know how to go about it or they are worried about how the police may react. It is important that people feel that they can report what is happening to the police.

Joanna moved on to another project about human rights that I also worked with. Travelling the country with work, we talked a lot and became friends.

Joanna has left Values in Action as a worker but we still keep in touch. We go out every two months for a drink and meal. We have worked together on workshops and with my individual budgets project, which is about giving people a life of their own. We went out for my birthday twice in a row and drank champagne. And Joanna invited me to her wedding last year. It was nice meeting all of her family, especially her brother.

Joanna is a good friend she is a good listener and knows her stuff.

Joanna Perry is a prosecution policy adviser for the Crown Prosecution Service and is a trustee of Values In Action

I first saw Mark’s work before I started at Values Into Action. I was temping, a bit lost and wondering what to do with my life when I came across VIA’s website and Mark’s Making Decisions project. Coming from the experience of working in residential care in New York, VIA’s approach to challenging the oppression and discrimination that people with learning disabilities face blew me away.

Mark and I worked together to raise awareness about hate crime among people with learning disabilities and the police. I was nervous the first time I led a workshop with police chief inspectors and superintendents but Mark, who had a lot more experience in this sort of thing, helped calm me and run the session without embarrassing myself too much!

Our work has come a long way – last year we wrote and gave a speech together for the launch of the Crown Prosecution Service’s disability hate crime policy.

I am now a VIA board member and Mark still works there. We go out for dinner when we can. Mark is a meat and potatoes kind of guy whereas I like to try all kinds of food, so we compromise – he makes the trek to my part of town and we go to steak places!

I admire Mark because he lives and works according to his principles and he is a natural leader. I value his opinion about the issues facing people with learning disabilities today. I take his lead when we work on his workshops around the country explaining how individual budgets work and we make a pretty good team.

To me, my friendship with Mark is what Values Into Action is all about. Because VIA doesn’t label staff and board members as “service user” or “self advocate” or “supporter” or “carer” we were able to meet as two people, two members of staff on equal pay and conditions, with common interests and views and, over time, we have become good friends.

This article appeared in the 10 April issue under the headline “We’re not labels but two staff members who became friends”

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