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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Interview about people with learning disabilities

Friday, March 26, 2004

As Chair of the ‘Voice UK All-Party Parliamentary Group’ Meg gave an interview to epolitix.com, published on their website 26th March 2004.



Question: When you discuss people being vulnerable who falls into this category?


Meg: In terms of the issue which we are discussing it is people who have a learning disability, which may be mild or severe, and they are likely to be living with relatives or carer’s in a home environment.


Question: Can you tell me a little more about the government’s commitment to the protection of vulnerable people?

Meg: In general a lot has been done in the past few months in terms of legislation especially with relation to the Sexual Offences Bill that was brought in. This has updated legislation to make sure that it is clear and up to date.  Alongside that there has been a lot work done on issues of the regulation of carers. Making sure that people have to be police checked and putting in place standards, particularly for people who live in more residential type units and organisations.


Thus the remaining concern is really around people who live independently or in supported accommodation.

Question: How important do you think organizations like Voice UK are in informing the government about these issues?


Meg: Voice UK is a very important organization. The organisation supports people who  have learning disabilities and it has members who are parents of people with learning disabilities. Their work is directly informed by the experiences of those who have been abused or whose relatives have been abused

There is an organisation in Parliament called the All Party Parliamentary Group which also has the name Voice UK. There are significant number of members of Parliament across the whole political spectrum who are in that group, that attend meetings but also receive briefings and information about the issues which are affecting people with learning disabilities.


Question: It is obviously quite important to have these organisations?


Meg: Absolutely, it is really important to ensure that people who are vulnerable and perhaps don’t really have a voice are able to get their views and feelings across. That is exactly what Voice does and is why it is called Voice UK, because it gives a voice to the voiceless.


Question: How do you think awareness of abuse of people with learning disabilities could be raised?


Meg:  I think the important thing is that people understand that it does happen. It is the same with all forms of abuse, we would all prefer to think that whether it is children or elderly people or in this case people with learning disabilities that it is just something that doesn’t happen. But we know that it does and it happens for all sorts of reasons, it happens in all sorts of settings, so I think just talking about it and thinking about is important.

What we are really trying to do now is to ensure that people with learning disabilities have their needs met in exactly the same way that anybody else’s needs are. This is why I want to see some changes to legislation which deals with people who aren’t vulnerable but will also help people who do have learning disabilities.


Question: What do you hope to see changed / improved in the near future with regards to the protection of vulnerable people?


Meg: With the support of Voice UK and indeed other charitable organisations who support people with learning disabilities I want to ensure that this specific issue which I am working on now gets dealt with.  When the Domestic Violence Bill comes through the House of Commons and becomes legislation it will include protection specifically for those with learning disabilities. The idea is that this should cover all sorts of domestic violence, not just domestic violence between spouses or people who live together. By including within it references to relatives or paid carers then that will provide greater protection to people with learning disabilities.

Question: Do you think the Carers Bill will make any difference?


Meg: The Carers Bill is important because it is about recognizing the central role that carers play in looking after all sorts of people at home. There are no excuses for violence against anybody but one of the reasons violence does arise is the stresses and strains that are put upon carers. So in a indirect way that could assist, but I think it is perhaps much more important to ensure that legal provisions remember the particular circumstances that people with learning disabilities find themselves in, and they are protected within mainstream legislation.

Question: Do you think these issues are highlighted well enough within the media, government and communities? Are people aware of the problem?


Meg: I think there is always a great deal more that can be done to raise awareness of this issue. It’s an issue, which many don’t come across unless they themselves have a friend or a close relative who has a learning disability. Therefore looking at these issues is important but I think equally it is important to say that we don’t get sufficient representation of people with learning disabilities. We shouldn’t just be representing them when there are difficulties, yes that does need to be raised and should be identified, but we should also say that they are ordinary people living their lives and experiencing a lot of the same things that everyone else experiences and I think we should see them in television series in soap operas just like everybody else.

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