Vicky Foxcroft the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford has thrown her weight behind a Lewisham charity after she signed their pledge with the aim of reducing the number of people institutionalised in secure mental health units.
Foxcroft, who is also the Labour shadow minister for disabled people signed last Friday whilst meeting with Lewisham Speaking Up, a charity that acts as advocates for people with autism and learning disabilities.
Foxcroft told EastLondonLines: “This is an important campaign, at a time when people with autism or learning difficulties already feel like an after-thought from Government, having the right to decide where you live is important.
“What is important about this campaign is that it is led by self-advocates and family campaigners. I fully support it. Their voice matters.”
Sam Attah, 46 from Deptford, a self-advocate and a representative of the Lewisham People’s Parliament, a group within the charity that actions issues raised by self-advocates from the community said of the meeting: “It was good and very interesting. Maybe the meeting will help us find a way to help others.”
ELL reported last week that the Lewisham charity who are based at The Albany in Deptford were part of a national movement called Right 2 Home that was campaigning to end unnecessary institutionalisation of people with autism and learning difficulties.
The pledge signed by Foxcroft accompanies a letter written by the charity that will be sent out to MPs nationwide that will urge the Government and NHS to reduce the number of people in secure mental health treatment units at a faster rate than what they currently are.
It also outlines that support and training should be provided to patients in the units that will allow their voices to be heard in an independent way. The charity wants the training to be delivered by people who have experience of being in a unit so they can educate people on self-advocacy and their human rights.
The charity also held a meeting with NHS England last Friday, specifically scheduled on the last day of the online campaign to tie in with the release of a BBC Panorama documentary that exposed abuse in a hospital for vulnerable adults called Whorlton Hall.
Marsh Stitchman, 56 from Newham, who has worked as a self-advocacy coordinator at Lewisham Speaking Up for the past four years said that NHS England have said they will require a couple of weeks to respond to the wishes of the charity.
He said: “I would say we are feeling hopeful, or cautiously optimistic that we might make a little bit of progress.”
He said that the charity is now playing a waiting game in terms of receiving further support going forward and will be having a review meeting this week after the online campaign finished last Friday.
Stitchman said: “How do we keep the momentum going? We did have some backing from the bigger charities for our campaign [like the] National Autistic Society and Mencap, but we want it to be a campaign that’s largely driven by the people that it affects, which is people with learning difficulties and autistic people and their families.
“It’s a system and if it’s a system, it can be redesigned. It’s not a force of nature or anything, it’s a system that’s been designed by people. Therefore, that means people can redesign it if they choose to do so. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Stitchman said that he hopes smaller groups can be established within treatment units that will allow people to receive training on how to speak up and identify abuse.
He said: “We’re hoping that if that happens then there’ll be far less chance of the kind of abusive, close secret situations going on that have been exposed by these Panorama programmes in the past. It’s bringing more openness into the situation.”
Lewisham Councillor Chris Best, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for health and adult social care said that the borough was working alongside Lewisham Speaking Up and providing various different schemes to support people with autism and/or learning difficulties in the community.
She said: “[People with learning difficulties] need to be valued members of society, living where they possibly can in the locality where they can get support from friends, carers as well as family. So, if you’ve lived in a community, you really want to be a part of that community and get a local job and feel embraced and wrapped around by the community.”
Best said that Lewisham Council run programmes such as the Disabled People’s Commission, which also features self-advocates from Lewisham Speaking Up that aims to give people with autism and learning difficulties a voice in the community.
She said they also provide people with training around using public transport to build their confidence when using it as well as employment and training opportunities alongside Ignition Brewery in Sydenham.