Europe in Action 2015 – Self-Advocate report

by Sara Pickard

Sara with Harry Roche EPSA steering group member for the UK

I attended a conference which was called Europe in Action 2015 which focused on “Families and Self-Advocacy” and  took place  on the 21st to 22nd May in Rome, Italy.

The theme of the conference was around families and self-advocacy, and there were a lot of very interesting presentations made from self-advocates from different countries and backgrounds.

There was quite a good range of people attending the conference from other countries and Italy, including other self-advocates, families, translators from the different countries and family based organisations like  Mencap, so quite a lot of people to network with and this was very interesting.

As part of the conference, there were parallel sessions as well as plenary sessions, and each parallel session included a number of self-advocates who gave presentations, so I was one of these self-advocates who presented, and spoke about my role as a Community Councillor for my local community in South Wales.

This session was very well attended by other self advocates, fellow Inclusion International colleagues and whoever else wanted to come to that particular parallel session.  I thought it went extremely well.

During the conference there were always a lot of interesting people to talk to and it was really inspiring to hear their backgrounds.

I really liked how each presentation that was made by experts and the self-advocates highlighted those areas where there had been great success made but also where there have been areas where things haven’t been working as well.

This really came out well when the EPSA general meeting met and the self advocate representatives shared issues from the different countries. We spoke about what were some of the challenges in self advocacy, such as

  • talking about more education around self advocacy,
  • the challenge around funding,
  • getting new members,
  • setting up self advocacy group that are truly independent from service providers,
  • the use of technology,
  • the right kind of support,
  • getting  groups to work together a lot better

I also raised that the new government in the UK want to get rid of the Human Rights Act and people with an intellectual disability in the UK don’t know how this will affect us.

These were just some of the issues that were raised.  It was a great opportunity to raise these things and discuss things as a whole group.

Self advocates at the EPSA general meeting
Self advocates at the EPSA general meeting

There were lots of people from self-advocacy groups that Inclusion International could link with through EPSA. Although the EPSA steering group talked about the problems of keeping up good communication between their members. There are problems with a lack of funds, translation and of good support to help people stay in touch with each other.

I think that Inclusion International could do a lot of fantastic work on identifying areas for more self-advocacy groups to speak up and get involved in Inclusion International’s work, I think it’s about getting the word out there to these groups through the campaigns work and building networks at conferences like the one in Rome.

I was so grateful to be at an event like this in Rome where we could bring our views on what we as Inclusion International is about.  As well as listening to what amazing things are happening across other countries.