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Conference ensures people with learning disabilities have their voices heard


31 October 2022
Hear our Voice - Prestatyn Conference

On Friday 21 October, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin spoke at the ‘Hear our Voice’ conference at the Beaches Hotel, Prestatyn. The event was organised by Prestatyn Self-Advocacy, a learning disability self-advocacy group working in Denbighshire. Their aim is to “speak out for our community and ask for change” and, as such, they talk to government, the local council and other people who have the power to make change happen in the community and improve access and rights for people with learning disabilities.

Attendees at the conference, who numbered over 100, heard from a variety of speakers about the ways government and other services are supporting the learning disability community. There were also exhibition stands, with representation from charities and organisations advocating on behalf of the community.

The chair of Prestatyn Self-advocacy, Bryn Owen opened the event and was followed by Mark Isherwood (Member of the Senedd for North Wales), who spoke about Human Rights for people with learning disabilities.

Andy Dunbobbin then discussed Hate Crime against people with learning disabilities, giving the view of the police on this crucial issue. Tackling Hate Crime forms a key part of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan. North Wales Police take the issue of Hate Crime seriously and have a dedicated Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team who work hard to engage with residents. The EDI Team’s Head, Greg George also attended the conference alongside the Commissioner.

In his speech, Mr Dunbobbin said that: “My police and crime plan includes tackling and preventing Hate Crime as a policing priority. I have asked North Wales Police to take action to try to reduce this type of crime.  They do this by telling people about what Hate Crime is and emphasising that it won’t be accepted or tolerated in North Wales. My message to anyone is that if you experience or see anything that you are worried about, always tell us about it.  The police are there to protect the public. They are there to protect you. You should always tell someone.”

Another area the Commissioner touched on was Mate Crime. This is when somebody pretends to be a victim’s friend and pretends to help them but could be stealing from them or defrauding them. Following the Commissioner’s speech, there was a discussion of services supporting friendship and relationships for people with learning disabilities from Kathryn Whitfield, Programme Manager North Wales Together. The conference then closed with a message from Joe Powell, CEO, AWPF.

Helga Uckermann, Self-Advocacy Coordinator, North Wales Advice and Advocacy Association, commented: “This conference was aimed at people with learning disabilities to make their own voices heard and for people to hear what is important to them. My role is to support self-advocates to do their work and to find their own voice. People with learning disabilities in North Wales want respect in their communities and for people to know that Hate Crime causes real pain and affects their lives.”