Wednesday 27th November will go down in history as a day that Guernsey took a large step forward in recognising the needs of disabled islanders. From the States members who unanimously passed the Disability & Inclusion strategy, to the comprehensive media coverage, to the hundreds of islanders who turned up on the steps, we saw the island speak as one in recognition of the need for change.
Thanks to the magnificent work of the ‘We all matter, eh’ campaign the States members were met by an unprecedented sea of smiling faces supporting the Strategy. This followed on from the tireless work carried out by the many people involved in bringing the Strategy before the States, two of those people worthy of special mention are Shelaine Green and Rob Platts from the Guernsey Disability Alliance who were instrumental in the process.
Not only did we see our government support the Strategy but the amendments (including to increase funding for the Strategy to £250,000, to ensure the grade for a Disability Officer is sufficient for the role and to report back to the States no later than the end of 2016) were all passed unanimously.
Research conducted during the development of the Strategy consistently identified “four groups of disabled people who face multiple and significant disadvantages in our community: people with mental health conditions; people with learning disabilities; people with autism and other communication difficulties; and people with dementia”. As a Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy has recently been approved the strategy recommended that frameworks are developed for the other three areas noted above. The frameworks developed will “improve support and challenge the stigma faced by people in each of these groups”.
Whilst we are delighted that a framework for autism and other communication difficulties will be developed we recognise that this is merely the start of the journey. A huge amount of work needs to be done over the coming years to develop the recommendations into concrete action and we look forward to playing a key role in ensuring these recommendations are followed through in line with the needs of our autism community. Our mission is to create a positive future for individuals affected by autism, this week we hope a marker has been set to create a more positive future for all affected by disabilities in Guernsey.