All In This Together – A blog by Sarah Maguire

Sarah is the CEO of Choice Support, a social care Community Benefit Society that creates opportunities for happiness for people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and autistic people.

We really are stronger and louder together.

I spent three joyous weeks in February 2024 at the Learning Disability England Conferences. As members, you know that Learning Disability England exists to bring people and organisations together to create a movement for change where people with learning disabilities, families, friends, and paid supporters come together on an equal basis.

Over 400 members gathered together in Leeds, London, and online to discuss ‘Policy and Politics for Good Lives’. People at the conferences also debated Learning Disability England’s members upcoming Good Lives Manifesto, and how it can create an impact in politics and policy.

Everyone listened to what members have already done to affect positive change in the lives of people with learning disabilities, and listen to challenges where more needs to be done. I saw people come together as equals to listen, learn, and make decisions that worked for everyone – this is what is often referred to as co-production.

Co-production is a word that in my opinion is often overused or misused. Now you may say that I am biased (as one of the co-chairs of Learning Disability England) when I say that what I saw at the conferences was co-production at its best. So, I asked myself where the room for improvement is as we can always learn and do more.

Next year it would be so valuable if more senior leaders from paid supporter membership organisations came along. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear from and watch self-advocates, families and supporters tackling some of the shared issues experienced across the membership, and creating solutions that make a difference.

It is so important to have as many voices in the room as possible to strengthen this vital movement for change, so please look out for the 2025 conference dates and join with other senior leaders, self-advocates, families and friends of people with learning disabilities, to influence real change!