In the run up to the General Election, we ran a series of campaigning days and consultation events with young deafblind people. We wanted to find out what they would like the new government to deliver. Here is what they told us:
All the young people we spoke to felt positive about their future and wanted to be independent and contribute to society as much as possible. However some spoke of the barriers which sometimes prevent them from fulfilling their potential.
Although most were passionate about getting a job or volunteering, they told us it was hard to get work experience, because of the support they would need to do this. Some young people had faced discrimination, like Bethany from Birmingham, who was offered a job only until the employer found out she was deaf. Young people also told us about the low expectations and lack of support from employment advisers at Jobcentre Plus.
Other issues young people spoke to us about included:
- A lack of awareness about deafblindness among the general public;
- A lack of support to deal with bullying;
- A lack of involvement in decisions about the level and kind of support they need;
- Low expectations and a lack of empowerment.
Some young people were really concerned about the negative image of disabled people. Some felt that politicians had made the situation worse. They said,
“Even people who are high up say that disabled people don’t contribute to society, and that is not true”.
“Politicians should spend some time learning what life is really like for disabled people”
So what should the new government do for deafblind young people? Here is a response from one person, which sums up the views of many of the young people who spoke to:
“If I was a Prime minister I would do more to ensure that the services offered facilitate young adults as well as children; the transition to adulthood is a big thing anyway, add disability to the mix and its ten times harder. I would work at making the transition from children’s to adult social services and hospital service a lot smoother and more reassuring.
I would also direct my resources towards equipping young adults with key independent living skills such as (in the case of blindness) cooking and cleaning in a tactile way. I would do a lot more for young people who want to live independent lives with a successful career and a family and stop operating on the general and vague assumption that all disabled people can’t achieve this. Yes it is very important that vital services are offered to disabled people who are not in the position to work etc but equally more should be done for those who aspire to, particularly during that transitional period. Finally I would work to remove the stigma that puts disabled people as inferiors in society, I would do this by encouraging more disabled people into key professions such as teaching/ law/ politics and would aim to provide key resources/ services to facilitate this”.
All the young people we spoke to agreed that the government should speak to the young people and learn their views. One young person told us,
“We are a future generation, so we are interested in helping to build a better country. Things affect us as well as adults. Listening to the young people would be a fantastic opportunity to make big changes.”
It is really important to empower young people have their say. This is why the Public Policy team has established a Young Campaigners’ Group. Through the group, we will support young people to develop and run their own campaigns, so watch this space. If you have any questions about the group, contact me.