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Opinion piece: Society is failing those most at risk of harm in our communities 



Surely there must be a better way than locking people away?  


Sarah Roberts, Project Co-ordinator for Kirklees Involvement Network – Cloverleaf’s learning disability self-advocacy service – shares what she’s been reading in the press over the past month...  


January has been a challenging one, as my planned annual leave was replaced with Coronavirus, but it did give me chance to catch up on some reading. 


In the news, I have been reading about the great achievements made by Leeds-born learning-disabled actor and dancer - the amazing George Webster – and I also listened to his talk at the Inclusion North Winter Festival. George has become a well-loved actor and is an inspiration to people with a learning disability. Tommy Jessop, another learning-disabled actor who stars in Line of Duty, also gave a great interview in the media recently.  


We have come to see people with learning disabilities achieving in all areas of life. We have our first catwalk models, actors, athletes, and influencers with a learning disability. For the first time, we are seeing people get equal life chances opportunities as well as being valued by society. 


Unfortunately, on the flip side of this, not all the stories I’ve come across have been positive. I have also been reading about the upsetting news of the man with a learning disability who was locked in the loft by his Mum and Dad for seven months. He suffered severe neglect and weighed only six stone when he was eventually found. There was also the story of Nicola Cassidy, who is campaigning to have her son removed from a secure hospital where he is being kept with no contact with others at a cost of £20k a week. 


This, along with the abuse scandals of people in assessment and treatment units, really highlights the huge gap in equality and inclusion for people with a learning disability and autism. Surely there must be a better way than locking people away?  


Society is failing those most at risk of harm in our communities. KIN supports the National campaigns by BILD and Mencap to find a better way to care for people in these settings. We work with a range of local services across Kirklees such as the Police, Council, and hospitals to help adults with learning disabilities to find their voice, ensure that they understand their rights and have their own say on things that affect their lives.  


It is vital that as a society we ensure that people with a learning disability are heard, respected, and given the opportunity to make their own choices.  




Kirklees Involvement Network is a self-advocacy group for adults with a learning disability living in Kirklees. If you would like to find out more about joining or working with the group, please contact Sarah Roberts on 07710 020235.  


Opinion piece: Society is failing those most at risk of harm in our communities