Better Social Work Conference 2017

Supporting people with learning disabilities to live the lives they want

H is for happiness and human rights

Image: Harry Venning

On 18th September Lancaster University held an event for social workers and people with learning disabilities. It was to talk about how social workers can help people with learning disabilities.

Family And Friends Help (1)First of all, Hannah Morgan, from Lancaster University welcomed us all.

Then we saw a video of Lyn Romeo talking. She is the Chief Social Worker for adults. She said that social workers need to get to know people and their families. This will help social workers to understand people’s needs better.


The next presentation was Rob Mitchell. He is a social worker at Bradford Council.

He talked about people with learning disabilities having their own, named social worker. He said that it is important to be part of the community.

Social work offices should be places where people with learning disabilities feel welcome. He said social workers should not have all the power over people. Social workers should not tell people how to live.

People with learning disabilities should make their own decisions, and social workers should help them to have better lives.

Nina Riddlesden and Shvonne Nakoneczyni did the next presentation. They are social workers at Bradford Council. Self-advocates told them what a good social worker should be.

They said you should be able to trust your social worker. A social worker should do what they say they will do. Nina and Shvonne told us that staff talk about risk too much and do not listen to the person with learning disabilities.

There is too much jargon used by staff. People don’t understand the words and they get upset.

Social workers should make sure that all staff think about the Mental Capacity Act and the Human Rights Act. People with learning disabilities should be allowed to make risky decisions and have relationships that they choose.

Chloe Grahame then came to the front to tell us about the Named Social Worker project. She works for the Innovation Unit.

She said that social workers should be able to change the system by speaking up. She spoke to all of the social workers involved in the project and people with learning disabilities. This is what they said:

What is a good social worker?

  • Supporting and helping
  • Positive risk taking
  • Giving choice and control
  • Listening to people and advocating for them
  • Taking time to get to know people
  • Getting back to people
  • Passionate about their job
  • Explaining in a way people understand
  • Treating people with respect
  • Giving reasons for their decisions
  • Finding other options

Jackie Mahoney from the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) was next to speak. She said social workers need to use plain English and make sure people understand. They should also sort out problems quickly. People with learning disabilities and their families should have a person they can ring to get information.

Bradford Talking Media Bus travelling to Lancaster

Bradford Talking Media Bus travelling to Lancaster Image: Harry Venning



After lunch, Bradford Talking Media (BTM) did a presentation. They are a group of people who look at government documents and put them into plain English. Most of them have learning disabilities.

They showed a video of people talking about their lives.  They said that social workers need to listen to people’s stories and give them to the time to talk.



Louise Townson and David Blacklock were next up. They are from People First, Cumbria.

They said that some people with learning disabilities die earlier than other people, and many of the deaths could have been stopped. Men with learning disabilities die 13 years earlier, and women 20 years earlier.

They talked about how staff can look after the health of people with learning disabilities. They told us about an inquiry that they worked on and said that health staff and social workers should work together to look after people.

At the end, we talked in small groups about what we think is good social work. People in the audience could put their hands up and say what they decided.

Two people said that social workers should have good relationships with people and listen to their stories. They should work together with people and not just when there is a problem.

Another person said that social work should not just be about money.

Social workers should help family members and carers to be advocates for people with learning disabilities.

The last person said it is very important to get really lots of good social workers who care about people.

There is a video about the day that you can watch if you click here:

The conference was live streamed you can watch the individual sections and read the presentations and other material here.