Podcast Episode: People First
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
RS - Rosie Smith
MM On this episode I went to find out about People First. People First works with and supports people with learning disabilities to have more choice and control over their lives. So I went along to the Glasgow office and I spoke to one of the members of People First, Rosie Smith. So Rosie, what is People First?
RS People First is a national independent self-advocacy organisation of people with learning disabilities. The reason that we say that is because it’s member-led, so the organisation is controlled by its members. So we manage the staff and we decide on what topics we discuss.
MM People First has been going from 1989. I’m sure you weren’t about in 1989 Rosie?
RS Well I was 2.
MM Yeah. So how many members have you got since then?
RS Well at the moment we have over 1000. People First works all over Scotland, so there’s different representatives in different areas. We support each other and campaign for better lives for people with learning disabilities as well.
MM So does that mean that if somebody was to come along with a learning disability, that wants to campaign on a particular subject, do they have to be a member of People First before you can do that?
RS Yes, you have to be a member of People First …
RS … before you can do it, yeah.
MM Yeah, okay. So you work on 3 different levels of People First. So tell me, what is the levels that you work at?
RS Okay, well first of all we work to change the way people with learning disabilities see themselves, and they encourage them to value the contributions that they bring to society and what they offer. Number 2, secondly, we work to change the way that others see people with learning disabilities, particularly people who maybe have control and power over people with learning disabilities, because at People First we really believe that people with learning disabilities have those rights, and thirdly we campaign for change in the policy in the law, so that it treats us better and gives us equal opportunities.
MM So you work at national level here in Scotland, but you also work for the UK government. So what kind of work do you do?
RS Well it’s quite rare for us to work with the UK government, but we do a lot more work with the Scottish Government and local organisations. So for example, across the country we work on many different issues that affect people with learning disabilities in their day-to-day lives. Recently we’re working on some projects, including women’s cancer screening, hate crime, training social work students. There’s also a gender-based violence project and work around assessment and treatments units for people with learning disabilities, but at the moment - and I think this is really important as a young person myself - at the moment I’m working to make sure that People First includes young people with learning disabilities as well.
MM So do you go out and tell people about People First and try and get new members?
RS Yes, I’ve done that recently actually.
MM So tell me about the training that you do at People First, kind of like maybe awareness training or advocacy.
MM So what’s involved in that?
RS So we have council officer training that we provide regularly, which is about adult support and protection, and it looks at guardianship. That is one of the big issues that we’re campaigning for change and for it not to exist, because we believe at People First people shouldn’t be under guardianship, because they have the right to make their own choices and decisions without anyone else doing it for them. In Glasgow we run hate crime training with Police Scotland. Members go into schools to talk about the issues they face with hate crime and help young people to realise that people with learning disabilities deserve the same rights, and with that we try to remove the stigma of disability. The training is also run in Fife and Edinburgh. We also have a national Parents’ Group. The groups work to make parents more confident, so for example, they get more support, the support they need around parenting. So we’ve done that for quite a long - that’s been quite ongoing, hasn’t it? We also work on a group called SOLD, the SOLD project, which stands for Supporting Offenders with Learning Disabilities.
MM So that’s some of the training that you do, yeah?
MM So you’re a member of People First.
MM How long have you been a member for Rosie?
RS I’ve been a member for approximately 3 years.
MM And I take it that you like your work and you like what you do?
RS Yes, I like the fact that I can make a difference to people and be a voice for people with learning disabilities.
MM So how would you sell People First to other people?
RS Okay. Well like I said at the beginning, People First is about campaigning for the rights for change for people with learning disabilities, and for them to have a voice. So when a member is at People First it’s not controlled by the staff. We are supported by staff to allow us to achieve what we want to achieve. It’s like I said at the beginning as well, it’s not staff led, it’s member led. So it’s about the things that we want to talk about. It’s about having our voices heard. It’s about having our rights met.
MM Even though we’re in Glasgow for the People First office, but you’ve got an office in Edinburgh and Dundee, is that right yeah?
MM So have you got any more offices up and down Scotland or?
RS We have offices in Fife, Clackmannanshire, South Lanarkshire. We have offices in all different areas of Scotland.
MM Okay, thanks Rosie, and if you would like to find out more information about People First on the work that they’re doing at the moment, or maybe you would like to become a member of People First, just go to the website for more information at peoplefirstscotland.org.
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