‘Clearer information would help me leave hospital sooner’ - Conference will shed light on learning disabilities in secure services

Hayley Burwood, Opening Doors chairwoman. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Hayley Burwood, Opening Doors chairwoman. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

More than £100,000 of funding from two backers has helped a user-led learning disabilities charity stage an innovative conference in Norwich.

Opening Doors, which is based in the city, will hold the Moving Forward conference on Wednesday - where health and social care providers can hear directly from people with learning disabilities.

Members of the organisation will talk about their experiences of living in and moving on from secure services, as well as work which has already been achieved.

Sam Craig, a member of Opening Doors management committee said: 'It's been a lot of work but we hope it will make a difference to people with learning disabilities moving out of secure services and give them a voice. Things will only get better if we listen to the experts – people like me who've already been through it.'

Opening Doors recently received a £73,385 grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, and a further award of £30,000 from The Big Lottery Fund.

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This has not only helped fund the conference but also paid for the salary of a criminal justice advisor, who will work closely with local people with learning disabilities who are ex-offenders.

Many people living in secure settings who have learning disabilities find it hard to understand the roles of the different professionals involved, and especially find it difficult to understand the complicated paperwork they come across. This can affect the outcome of sentences and therefore people's futures.

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Opening Doors provides targeted support to these patients, helping them to develop their understanding and ensure they make informed choices and decisions.

Hayley Burwood, chairwoman of Opening Doors, said: 'The Lloyds funding is so important to us. We are a user-led organisation run by people with learning disabilities to support people with learning disabilities to speak up and have good lives. This money means we can develop our project working with people in prison or secure settings.

'We are delighted that Big Lottery also gave us extra money to make our work even better. People with learning disabilities need support when they move out of secure units so they can be safe and build a new life so they don't end up going back in to secure settings.'

One member of Opening Doors who previously was in a secure setting, who wanted to be known only as Ricky, added: 'I wish clearer information had been in place for me it would have helped me be able to leave hospital sooner. I like working with patients it's really important to me as a former patient that you know what's happening during your stay I know how it made me feel. That is why I can relate to people in the same situation lots of paid professionals can't, information is power which makes people lives better.'

Paul Streets OBE, chief executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said: 'Small charities like Opening Doors play a critical but often unseen role in local communities, supporting people often pushed to the fringes of society. But these charities are facing unprecedented pressures from funding cuts and with growing demand for their services, many are struggling to stay afloat.

'In this environment, funding from grant makers can literally mean the difference between survival and closure and as funders, we have a collective duty to believe in those charities that are making a difference on the ground. By working together Lloyds Bank Foundation and The Big Lottery Fund are delighted to support Opening Doors, giving a voice to people with learning disabilities and helping them make positive choices to move on from offending.'

The Moving Forward conference will be held at The Space in Norwich on Wednesday, March 14, from 9.30am to 3.30pm.

It has been co-produced by a group of people with learning disabilities alongside Norfolk County Council and clinical commissioning groups.

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