Turning Point has established regional and national People’s Parliaments to maximise service user involvement across its learning disability services. The aim is to ensure that all individuals supported by Turning Point are empowered and supported to influence what the organisation does at a local and national level as well as taking a more active role in their communities.
For the last two years, individuals supported by Turning Point have had the opportunity to attend a regional People’s Parliament . Representatives from each regional forum are then nominated to take forward their regions’ ideas and raise them at National People’s Parliament, which met for the first time in October 2014. The national meeting is attended by senior leaders, including the Chief Executive and non-executive Board members. At the first national meeting the Involvement Charter for Turning Point's Learning Disability Services was launched. The charter has been co-produced with individuals supported at Turning Point and their staff teams, and is something that people will sign up to and imbed at every level of the organisation.
By connecting with organisations like local Learning Disability Partnership Boards, regional People’s Parliaments have been able to form new relationships with external organisations and advocacy groups, enabling the people that Turning Point supports to become more integrated into their communities. Some of the regional parliaments are also using more creative approaches such as non-verbal communication, acting, music and arts and crafts to engage people.
A key considerations for any organisation looking to adopt a similar approach would be ensuring that staff who are busy as support workers also have time to dedicate to the People’s Parliament work, and that work is embedded within local services to ensure sustainability where there is staff turnover. Finding accessible venues, including accommodation which is within budget, may also prove challenging.
Examples of some of the ways in which regional People’s Parliaments are empowering people with learning disabilities to have a voice and be included in their local community are:
- Working to improve people with learning disabilities’ experience of using transport: for example promoting initiatives which can help people to stay safe on local buses; or campaigning against private taxi companies in one city charging people with disabilities sometimes up to double fares.
- Running a sports day bringing together people from services across the region
- Sharing information about other local services which can enable people to have more choice and control in their lives
- Encouraging people to get involved in volunteering and other local activities by sharing examples of how this has benefitted other people who use services.
- Members of one regional parliament have received training from a local learning disability organisation on how to run a self-advocacy forum, so that the forum can increasingly be led by people who use services and less by paid staff.
- Supporting representatives to meet with peers, local councillors and MPs as part of a national Turning Point in Westminster.