A Derby mum has backed a campaign to raise awareness of learning disabilities by urging people to volunteer as a carers’ ambassador.
The plea was made by Kathy Smedley, of Alvaston, to coincide with Learning Disabilities Week running from Monday (19 August) to the following Sunday.
Kathy reckons she and her fellow ambassadors have helped a large number of carers of people with learning disabilities in the 12 months since she signed up as an ambassador with the Derby branch of Derbyshire Carers’ Association, particularly following the closure of residential and day care services in the city.
She has advised carers in their applications to Derby City Council for the Personal Budgets awarded to people with learning disabilities following the introduction of the personalisation agenda intended to ensure that care packages are built around the needs of the individual.
She attends the Learning Disability Partnership Boards run by the city and county council with the four NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups that are responsible for the healthcare of Derbyshire people. She has helped with the formation of a carers’ support group in Alvaston, and she refers carers to relevant voluntary organisations as well as to the local authority and NHS bodies responsible for social and healthcare respectively.
Kathy became interested in the role of care ambassador following her family move to the city, when she contacted the city council to agree a personal budget for her 31-year-old son Graeme, who has Down’s syndrome.
She said: “Graeme has come on in leaps and bounds and his self-confidence has grown since he was awarded a personal budget and his personal care plan was put in place. Before then, he attended various off-the-peg college courses that didn’t meet his needs.”
Nowadays, Graeme and several peers attend coffee mornings, go bowling, and take part in art, music and drama classes. He also sleeps over with another family sometimes in preparation for the time when he will have to live away from home.
Kathy added that more ambassadors were needed, especially from ethnic minorities. Anyone interested in volunteering should visit Derbyshire Carers or call its offices at Chesterfield on 01246 222373, Matlock on 01629 812132 or Ripley on 01773 743355.
Councillor Mark Tittley, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health at Derby City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to know that the use of personal budgets is working, especially as positively as is seen in this young man’s case. It’s about having flexibility and freedom in care, enabling an individual or their carer to use the personal budget how they see best to gain a better result for that individual.”
Learning Disabilities Week is run nationally by Mencap which is urging people to nominate a family carer as a superhero by visiting Mencap.
Meanwhile, NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG is asking patients with learning disabilities to visit their GP to get health checks during Learning Disability Week.
Rates of coronary heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes are higher among people with a learning disability than the general population, with rates of epilepsy as much as 20 times higher. People with a learning disability are also much more likely to be either underweight or obese than the general population, and more than 80 per cent of adults with learning disabilities engage in levels of physical activity below the Department of Health’s minimum recommended level.
Chair: Dr Sheila Newport Chief Officer: Andy Layzell
Patients with a learning disability are also more likely to have poor oral health.*
*SOURCE improving Health and lives. Learning Disabilities Observatory (2010)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG represents 57 GP practices and is one of four clinical commissioning groups in the county responsible for the healthcare of people in Derbyshire.
Charles Malkin, Communications Officer
Tel: 01246 514971/07450 014496