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.”

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.