People with a learning disability can face severe health inequalities throughout their life – which often start in childhood.
In December 2020, Mencap launched their Children’s Campaign to seek action to close the health inequality gap for children with a learning disability. As part of this campaign, Mencap made resources about early diagnosis and resources to help ensure that children with a learning disability (aged 0-5) get equal healthcare.
Now Mencap have launched materials for young people with a learning disability who are transitioning from children’s services to adult services. For those who are transitioning from children’s hospital care to adult hospital care, it can be challenging and scary so it’s important to support young people with a learning disability at this important stage in their life when the health services they use start to change.
My parents’ voice was my voice until I was 16 and then I had to speak up for myself. I felt like all the support I had when I was a child, stopped. My parents would come to some of my hospital and GP appointments but most of the time I went alone.
Back then healthcare professionals didn’t have much knowledge or education about people with a learning disability. If there was a resource available to me, I would have known about the extra support I could have got. Most of what I know now, I learnt through Mencap when I started working here 19 years ago.
Transition resources are so important for young people because they empower people to understand the support they can get in adult services. Adult services are different from children’s services and young people may have more choice available to them. The resource provides support and information and mentions how you may need to go to new and different departments in the hospital. Reasonable adjustments, such as having someone with you for support or asking for a longer appointment, should still be made.
Under the Equality Act 2010, the law says that if you have a disability, it is your right to ask for things that will help you when in hospital. This is called a reasonable adjustment.
Remember, when moving from children’s services to adult services, there are opportunities to talk with the transitions team or with a learning disability nurse at the hospital about what to expect. They will make sure hospital staff are aware of the different adjustments that may need to be made for young people with a learning disability.
No one should have to face issues in getting access to the right healthcare they need because they have a learning disability.
Search: ‘Mencap Children’s Campaign’ via Google.
About Ciara Lawrence
Ciara Lawrence is a well-known learning disability campaigner. She has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent.