BLOG: The Learning Disability England Conference

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Christopher Porter is a self-advocate in North Yorkshire. He has written about the Learning Disability England conference that happened in February.

A photo of a young man at a station, standing under the announcement boardsOn the 13 February I went to the Learning Disability England Conference and I got the train to Leeds from a station near Skipton. I had booked assisted Travel and a man called Ian helped me to find the train to Manchester. This was the first time I had booked Assisted Travel and I met Jodie on the train to Manchester. 

The LDE Conference was held at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester. When we arrived, we signed in and were given a goodie bag and then went to the hall where the conference was held. 

The theme for the Conference was Including Everyone and we waited for Sam, Mark, Jamie and Karen to arrive.



Scott Watkin (British Empire Medal) and Jordan Smith who are co-chairs  of Learning Disability England, welcomed everyone to the conference. Scott introduced the first speaker from Essex who talked about making Co-production real for us all.

A photo of a young man wearing a red jumper, sitting at a tableNext, we heard from Dame Julia Unwin CBE, who talked about Inclusion and Civil Society and how the world is changing around us. After a break Jodie and I went to the first workshop session which was called “With a little help from my friends.” A group called L’arch Community, showed us a film about friends getting together for different activities and shared their experiences. Next, Frank Steeples from Keyring networks got the group to draw a picture about the things our partner was describing from her picture. Then he told us about Community organisers, which is an organisation that KeyRing are working with.

After lunch, we all returned to the main hall and heard from Kevin and Faisal. They gave a presentation about working together with their local council on co-production to make changes happen. 

Then, Isabelle Garnet told us about her experiences.  She is a mum to two extraordinary young people. Over the years she has spent a lot of time navigating the world of education, social care and health service. Most recently, she is fighting to get her son out of an acute treatment unit and to a positive and fulfilling life in the community. Isabelle has started a campaign called Home is not a Hospital to lobby Members of Parliament about this issue. All the speakers from this session answered questions from the audience and some people said they were sick of people being treated like this.

Then we went to a workshop which was about “Your Voice, Your contribution, your leadership” and was hosted by Community Catalysts and the Dimensions Council. We heard how people with a learning disability and autism are making their contribution and leadership in the community and we watched 4 films.

The first film about a young man with learning disabilities who set up an autism friendly cinema for people with autism, and is now employed by a cinema chain. The second film was about a young man with autism with lots of anxiety who said that nobody understood his autism when he was at school. The third was about two people who set up a café for their community. Adele from Dimensions read out a story about a young man who has now got an MBE for his community work.

We left the conference early to get our trains home back to North Yorkshire after a very busy and interesting day in Manchester.

For more information about self-advocacy in North Yorkshire you can follow the group on twitter and instagram. You can also contact Karen Murray at or on 07833 309 693.

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