SMU-in-London 2008

This summer 48 SMU students are traveling to London to study communication courses, including international media, free speech, creative advertising, British cinema and the global civil society. Some students also are interning with international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Pants to Poverty, and Save the Children, to name a few.

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The purpose of our work

Katie%20Reynolds.JPGAn update from Katie, a University Scholar and senior CCPA major with a minor in psychology. She is working for an International Non-Governmental Organization called Mencap in London for six weeks this summer:

While preparing my speech for the Intern Presentation to the rest of the London program, I realized the magnitude of the work that my organization does, and it made me extremely encouraged by all the work that each individual does at Mencap.

I chose to talk about how to become a force for change by debating in public forums and bringing to the forefront issues that some people may not want to hear about. This topic was perfect for my organization because at Mencap we have a large campaigns department that lobbies the government and works with politicians from all parties to try to improve the lives of people with a learning disability. We have had a lot of success recently with such hard-hitting campaigns as:

Don’t Stick It, Stop It – Campaign to stop the bullying of children and young people with a learning disability

Changing Places – Campaign for fully accessible toilets throughout the UK

Breaking Point – Campaign that calls for families of people with a learning disability to get short break services because 8 out of 10 parents have reached a breaking point.

Death by Indifference – Campaign for equal healthcare treatment for people with a learning disability.

DBI-families-resized.jpgThe Death by Indifference campaign was a follow-up to the Treat me Right! report published by Mencap in 2004, which exposed the unequal healthcare that people with a learning disability often receive within the National Health Service. This report led many families (pictured) of people with a learning disability who had died to contact Mencap and tell the story of how their loved one died because the medical staff who were treating their sons or daughters would not listen to them.

Mencap used six of these stories as case studies to publish the Death by Indifference report in March 2007, including the story of Martin (pictured), a 43-year-old man with a learning disability who died in the hospital after he suffered a stroke and went 26 days unfed.

katie-Martin.JPGBefore Mencap had even published the follow-up report, we could see the effect it was going to have when the Government came out with a pre-emptive announcement that they would set up an independent inquiry into the treatment of people with a learning disability in the NHS.

Just today, the findings of the report were published by the Government in which they found “appalling examples of discrimination, abuse and neglect across the range of health services.” The inquiry also found “convincing evidence that people with learning disabilities have higher levels of unmet need and receive less effective treatment.” The inquiry shows that everything Mencap said in the Death by Indifference campaign was right, and Mencap will now be campaigning for the Government to carry out all of the recommendations that they have set forth.

It is successes like this that show me the purpose of the work we do at Mencap and encourages me to continue to be a force for change.

The work that Mencap does really is monumental. It’s because of campaign runs and published reports that individuals with a learning disability, all across the UK, are getting that much closer to having the same rights and being treated with equality.

If you would like to know more about current or past campaigns by Mencap, please go here.

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