A Western Isles group for people with learning disabilities is taking proactive steps to ensure that professionals across the Isles are aware of issues relating to learning disabilities, by setting up a service to provide training to staff across a range of organisations.
As a result of £35,000 funding from NHS Western Isles, the Stand Up For Yourself Self Advocacy Group will undertake training themselves, and will link with the Good Life, Positive Attitudes Group in West Dumbartonshire to develop a training programme for professionals. Training would involve a mix of lively practical sessions and discussions to explore the barriers that people with a learning disability face on a daily basis. Once group members are fully trained and confident, they will then offer training to organisations in the Western Isles, which will include doctors, nurses, other healthcare staff, local authority staff and voluntary organisations.
Kathryn Logan from Advocacy Western Isles said: "There are benefits in this project on many levels. For group members, the main aim is that the training will increase their confidence. The experience of 'having a voice' and being listened to and valued will be very positive for them, which will in turn increase their independence.
"From the point of view of local organisations, it will help break down communication barriers and help staff build relationships with people with learning disabilities. It will also make people much more aware of the issues that people with learning disabilities face on a daily basis."
NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: "This is a particularly important project for NHS Western Isles to support, particularly in terms of helping to address health inequalities and improving communication. We are delighted to have been able to provide these funds for the group. It is very impressive that the Stand Up For Yourself group has taken the initiative and will be undertaking training themselves so that they will be able to train staff in local organisations. I understand that frontline staff will be offered the training in the first instance and we look forward to local NHS staff taking part in the sessions."
He added: "Members of the Stand Up For Yourself group are to be commended for coming up with such a positive plan to help improve interaction with people with learning disabilities in the Western Isles."
Donald Wilson from the Stand Up For Yourself group also commented: "We can't wait to get our message across."
The aim of Advocacy Western Isles is to ensure that the views of vulnerable individuals are heard and respected, their rights protected and that they are in a position to influence and be part of decisions affecting their lives. The Stand Up For Yourself Self Advocacy Group was formed in 2006, and now meets every four to six weeks at the Advocacy Western Isles Offices. There are currently around 18 members.
The group organises opportunities and activities for themselves, and also arranges for various speakers to come and communicate with them about areas of interest.
Last year, the group also gave two presentations to NHS Western Isles on their experiences of accessing local health care services. The issues that mattered to them, that they discussed with staff, included communication, visiting the hospital, doctors, confidentiality, accident and emergency and medicine information. A number of improvements have already been implemented as a result of the feedback from the group, including staff training on communications, easy read information leaflets for radiology, and the production of a communications toolkit for use in clinical areas. Work is also being undertaken to implement recommendations from the group on hospital signage.