This blog was originally posted on April 23rd 2018
Lucy (Forum Central) started off with an introduction and explained that in the last meeting in January 2018, they discussed a project looking at the gaps faced by disabled people in the LGBT community, as well as the issue of employment for disabled people. Although some of these projects have ended, Forum Central will be continuing to work on these areas.
The first speaker was Gilda Smith-Leigh, a senior Economic Development officer with Leeds City Council, and her talk was supplemented by the consultation draft of the ‘Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy 2017-2023’ which details the vision, drivers for change and twelve Big Ideas for Leeds. It was interesting to hear about the ways in which we are one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, but that this growth is in the private sector with a shrinking public sector. Leeds is focusing on retraining people for jobs that will eventually disappear and looking at getting people into work. Unfortunately, ‘disability’ doesn’t have its own place in this strategy, but we were assured that Forum Central and other stakeholders were involved in the consultation process.
The second speaker was Simon Cox, from the Department of Work and Pensions in his role as Disabled Person’s Community Partner. His talk was refreshing and painted a very positive image of the DWP, which often ignites feelings of anxiety in many disabled people. He talked about how their culture is changing, the role of the community partners, and how to get involved. Although positive and great to hear a change in attitudes towards disabled people, some elements may provide interesting opportunities for LDPO.
One of the interesting points to further explore was how the ‘coaches’ in DWP have been trained to support disabled people, and to what extent this was developed in collaboration with disabled people themselves. It is pertinent to add here that Simon Cox himself was a disabled man. This may be a space in which LDPO could work with the Community Partners and share member’s feedback as to how to better support disabled people looking for work. Next was the claim that they are ‘improving quality of life and wellbeing’, which would be fascinating to find out more about how they are doing this, and also people’s experiences of receiving this support. There are concerns around getting people to do voluntary work instead of finding paid employment, but these debates are more complex, and this is not the space to get into it, as this is not what the meeting was focused on. Finally, Simon mentioned that West Yorkshire has a new district manager who is focused on ‘experiences and not numbers’. This is an exciting opportunity to LDPO to work with disabled people in Leeds and have these conversations with DWP to promote better support and working practices. Stay tuned!
Hannah (Forum Central) then provided a quick update on Health and Social Care, mentioning that they are the voice of the third sector in Leeds and often sit on committees for these strategic projects. She encouraged members to join the Health and Third Sector Leaders Network, and get involved as much or as little, to make the voice of the third sector more powerful. There was an update on the neighbourhood teams (previously 13, now 18 of them); these are multidisciplinary teams around Leeds, ensuring that health and care can work together to provide more person centred approaches
~ By Hannah McGurk
Update: to find out more about Forum Central’s work, visit their website: https://www.forumcentral.org.uk