Report by Sara Pickard (Council Member Europe – Inclusion International)
As the Council member for Europe for Inclusion International, I was very pleased to be invited to the Inclusion Europe Leadership Training which took place in Brussels from September 26th-28th 2017.
The theme of the training was ‘Violence and Abuse towards people with intellectual disabilities – empowering self-advocates and families to end it’.
During the course we heard from speakers who had done work on this subject and people at the training shared their experiences and experiences of people they knew.
We found out from a Dutch study that 61% of women with an intellectual disability said they had experienced violence, but professionals had said the figure was only 29%!
We also learnt about how the European Union works and how we would be able to present our case to the MEPs we would meet at the European Parliament later in the week.
I liked the style of the training, especially how the group work was organised and how it built up towards the final visit to meet the MEPs. Some of the sessions on how the European Parliament works were difficult to follow at times but were important in giving us the information we needed. I do think that this style of training would be useful for us to use for Empower Us in the future.
The people attending the training came from Malta, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, France, Portugal, Holland, Lithuania and me from UK.
Meeting the MEP
Later on in the training we worked in small groups to prepare our presentation which we would make to one of eight MEPs from different countries we would meet at the European Parliament.
The group I was part of presented our case to Julie Ward, an MEP for North-West England. Julie listened carefully to what we had to say.
She questioned us about certain points we had made and heard about people we knew who had experienced such problems.
She was interested to hear about the work we were involved with, including ‘Empower Us’ and said that she would be following our work in the future.
Meeting with EPSA
I had the chance to meet with the EPSA team to discuss Empower Us and plans for the World Congress next year and we agreed that we would work together on these ideas as we move forward.
I was also able to share information on Empower Us with the other self-advocates who were there. It was very clear that the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities is very different from one country to another, especially where many people still live in institutions where the problems with violence are often unseen and unheard.
Through exchanging our email contacts we intend keeping in touch with each other so that we can learn more about the work going on in our countries. It was also agreed that I would act as a ‘link’ between EPSA and Inclusion International/Empower Us by being included in all their conference calls.
I will also be making contact with Julie Ward MEP to keep her up to date with our work. I also intend to write to the four MEPs who represent Wales so that they are aware of the work we were doing on the training and about the work of projects like ‘Empower Us’.
I found the training very interesting, although at times it was very difficult to take on board the problems some of the speakers had experienced in their lives.
Thanks to all at Inclusion Europe for this great opportunity.