Speak Out Newsletter - March 2021

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Welcome to March’s newsletter where you can hear more about the great work we do supporting local people with learning disabilities. We all know that this winter has been very difficult for many people as coronavirus continues to dominate our lives. As you can see from the newsletter we’ve continued to support people over the phone and online throughout the current lockdown and are hopeful that the rollout of vaccines will enable us to open up our services in the not too distant future.

We’ve also been busy over the winter months talking to people with learning disabilities and other stakeholders about planning our work for the coming years. Over 120 people have responded to questionnaires and interviews letting us know about the issues that people face locally and suggesting ways that we can all work together to improve lives. In addition, we have commissioned a report mapping inequalities that people face that will feed into the final report - Speak Out Literature Review 2020. All of this work will continue into spring and we will keep you informed about the outcome.

On a sadder note, I would like to pay tribute to Betty Vincent who sadly passed away recently. Betty was a long standing member of Speak Out who was a regular at a number of groups over the years. In my early days at Speak Out, I supported her as co-chair of our Big Meeting and also as a member of the Learning Disability Partnership Board where she was always keen to speak out and have her say. She was always keen to be part of any work we carried out and regularly reminded people about the importance of ‘Nothing about us without us’.  She will be sorely missed by all at Speak Out. Sarah Pickard (Director)


Speak Out's Online AGM - 2021

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On Monday 22nd February, Speak Out held its very first on-line AGM! The AGM went very well with no technical hitches and joining us that evening were staff members, Speak Out members, trustees and volunteers. Thank you to everyone who came.

Digital Access For All

How often do you say or hear “oh what did we do without the internet?”

Studies show that more than 5 million people in the UK have never used the internet and 23% of those are people with disabilities. The pandemic has highlighted the inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities; less well known than the very serious health inequalities linked to Covid-19, are the difficulties people face accessing online services.

Speak Out is currently working on two exciting digital inclusion projects. These projects are funded by The Lottery and Seeability/ Learning Disability England (LDE) and the plan is to reach 75 people with learning disabilities by the end of March 2021. We are also working with individuals to seek IT equipment and support them to get online.

Speak Out currently has 5 online drop in sessions running each week, where people with learning disabilities can chat about important issues, find peer support, share and produce art and watch films together and we run 4 online self-advocacy groups for people of different ages and interests.

If you know of anyone who would like to get online, but doesn’t know how – let us know [email protected].

Everyone is entitled to a digital life.

Information signInformation about Speak Out's services during Covid-19


Speak Out Helpline 

Speak Out Virtual Drop-In Sessions

Speak Out Information Hub and Chat Group

Our helpline continues to support anyone with a learning disability who needs to contact us for help. We are also providing regular check in-calls for people who are isolated and/or have little support.

  • Telephone helpline - 01273 421921 Monday-Friday 9-5pm and Sunday 11am-3pm
  • Check in calls - from Speak Out staff or a volunteer for people who are isolated and need this support.

Since the beginning of lockdown earlier this year, there have been 1000+ calls to and from our helpline, supporting people with a wide range of issues, including understanding Coronavirus guidelines, accessing health services and social care support, dealing with day to day problems and isolation.

"Speak out has helped me stay connected, it helps when I am feeling low and cheers me up”

Tuesday Drop-In

The online drop-in sessions continue to be a space for people to come along and not only see their peers and meet new people, but also talk about their concerns about the pandemic and any new guidelines as they arise.

Following the creation of the ‘Self Care’ and ‘Keeping Busy’ information sheets by the attendees of the drop in they have now been adapted into ‘Tuesday Tips’, which are posted weekly on Facebook to help others and share the advice of the group.

We continue to set a theme for each week which everyone can participate in by creating an artwork, bringing a significant object along or recounting memories which everyone shares. It has been instrumental in the group getting to know each other better. We have also had a theme of ‘doing something nice for someone else’ and ‘doing something nice for yourself’ to try to promote self care and the care of others.

We talk a great deal about new developments in the pandemic; rule changes, vaccinations, and how people are feeling about them. The group is mutually very supportive and try to help each other when someone is struggling.

Two attendees had the following to say about the drop ins in general:

‘I’m so grateful for the drop ins through the lockdowns because I’ve met so many good friends out of it.  Without it I think I would have been very lonely.  I look forward to the Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday drop ins.  I’m very grateful to Speak Out and all they do’ – Tina

‘I just want to thank Speak Out again, I really enjoy coming to the drop ins and making new friends’ - Shannon

Speak Out East

Join Speak Out East at their digital lunchtime club.

Speak Out East Lunch Club is on every:


12.30 to 1.30

Join Speak Out East members in their “Zoom Room” where you can bring your lunch, have a chat, meet with friends. Each week there will be different activities taking place, such as quizzes, artwork activities and more.

Speak Out East's next workshop is on Thursday 18th March with award-winning cartoonist Harry Venning.

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Join Speak Out East Lunch Club here: https://zoom.us/j/94129279947

As the lockdown has continued our transitions team has run more Zoom drop-ins at Team Domenica talking about healthy relationships, and we have been planning more Zoom workshops for Downs View Life Skills college. We have also helped a number of young people speak to Social Services and helped them say what they want for their future, where they want to live and what they want to do.

Advocacy for Parents with a Learning Disability

Speak Out continues to provide advocacy support to parents with learning disabilities who are going through child protection proceedings. At such a challenging time advocacy can be vital to helping parents understand their rights and navigate the complicated assessments and legal procedures they have to engage with.

Speak Out contributed to The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory surveys, whose aim was to examine the impact of Copvid-19, through the reflection and experiences of all those involved in child protection.

Their review on child protection conference practice during COVID-19, noted some of the additional challenges experienced by parents with learning disabilities, who it was said found the restrictions harder to manage, with more support required. Challenges included a lack of face-to-face support, and difficulty accessing and using technology. The survey report noted the most common arrangement to support parents with disabilities was the provision of an advocate. Speak Out are proud to have continued to deliver our advocacy service to parents throughout the pandemic, and to be supporting them during these unprecedented times.

You can find the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory report here: Nuffield Family Justice Observatory Report

Thumbs Up

The Thumbs Up team have started training to be peer educators with Learning Disability England's Pass It On Mental Health training. The aim of the ‘Pass-it-on’ project is to increase knowledge about mental health for people with learning disabilities and those who work with and care for them. The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) (part of London South Bank University) are developing a sustainable mental health training programme that will teach people with learning disabilities all about mental health and train them to pass this knowledge on to other people with learning disabilities through Peer Support Groups.

GP Quality Checks

The Thumbs Up team are also excited to have their first GP Quality check booked in for the end of March. The GP quality check is being developed by the Thumbs Up Team, and Jane Viner, the Learning Disability Health Facilitator for Brighton and Hove City Council.

The work is aiming to assess and improve the service that GPs offer to people with learning disabilities who use their surgery. The Thumbs Up team received training in how to be Quality checkers in 2019. As the team cannot physically visit the surgery due to Covid-19, the first Quality Check will take place over Zoom, with a virtual tour and interviews. Members of the Thumbs Up will interview the practise manager and GPs about the service they offer to people with learning disabilities and what reasonable adjustments they make to improve the experience of people with learning disabilities. The Thumbs Up team will then assess the results and offer feedback on possible improvements, and award the surgery a Thumbs Up award gold, silver of bronze. The team will revisit the surgery a year later to assess progress on recommendations.

If the trial goes well, Thumbs Up hope to roll out the scheme to all GP surgeries in Brighton and Hove.

Learning Disability Partnership Board had a great first ever Zoom meeting in January. Members of the Speak Out Link Group (a group with a role to represent the views of other people with learning disabilities) chaired the meeting and gave presentations. They talked about the Learning Disability Plan for services in Brighton and Hove.

What is the Learning Disability Strategy?

The Learning Disability Strategy is a five year plan for services for adults with learning disabilities in Brighton and Hove. The plan will help people with learning disabilities in Brighton and Hove to lead healthy, happy lives.

The council asked people with learning disabilities what things are most important to them.

There were six main themes that people said were important:

  • Relationships and Friendships
  • Health and mental health
  • Information and advice
  • Activities, work and learning
  • Housing and Support
  • Transitions

Groups will work on each of these themes and will then report back to the Learning Disability Partnership Board to let them know what they found.

The groups working together consist of:

  • People with learning disabilities
  • Carers, Parents and families
  • Managers and people at the council
  • The Clinical commissioning group who are in charge of health care
  • Providers of services for people with learning disabilities
  • Organisations that work with people with learning disabilities

To find out more you can read the notes from the meeting.

For more information please contact Emma: [email protected] or on 01273 284451

Our Impact 2019 - 2020


Read our latest Impact Report for 2019 - 2020 – The report, available online, features detailed information about our work and celebrates the positive impact Speak Out has when supporting people with learning disabilities to help achieve that vision.

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Thank you to Brighton and Hove Bus Company

Speak Out has been awarded funding from the Brighton and Hove Bus Company's' Community Support Fund to help us continue to produce our Easy Read Newsletter. Our easy read newsletter is posted to our members so that they can keep up-to-date with Speak Out's activities and keep safe during Covid-19.

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Brighton Marathon, BM10K and BM Ride 2021

Would you like to run and raise vital funds for a local charity? Do you already have your own place and would like to support the learning disabled community? Do you know anyone looking for a running or cycling challenge? Why not take part in the Brighton Marathon Weekend for Speak Out!

To find out more here

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How you can support Speak Out for FREE!

Please remember you can support Speak Out by using #easyfundraising when you do your online shopping.

Over 4,300 shops and sites will donate to Brighton and Hove Speak Out for FREE. This means you can raise donations when you buy gifts, toys, jewellery, tech, experiences or anything else!

Please support us: Speak Out Easy Fundraising

You can also support Speak Out by donating to our JustGiving page and by texting SPEAKOUT£10 or £3 or £20 to 70085.


We hope that you found this newsletter helpful and interesting, if you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] or call us on 01273 421921