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Social History of Learning Disability Conference 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 10:00 to Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 15:30
The Open University, Milton Keynes
LB (from Justice for LB website)

Advocacy and the social history of learning disability: Family and Self-Advocacy

10 and 11 July 2018
The Open University, Milton Keynes

We are delighted to announce that the next Social History of Learning Disability Conference will be held at The Open University in Milton Keynes on 10 and 11 July 2018.

The theme of the conference is Advocacy and the social history of learning disability: Family and Self-Advocacy.

We have seen a change in the context in which self-advocacy operates, with many groups struggling while others flourish. In 2017 the English National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities and the National Valuing Families Forum lost their funding; while Wales has the infrastructure of All Wales People First.

The traditional advocates for families - large organisations like Mencap and National Autistic Society - have been challenged by new initiatives like 7 days of Action and Justice for LB; and by different forms of advocacy practised through the arts and theatre. At this year’s conference, we will explore some fundamental questions about the past, present and future of advocacy in learning disability. Presentations will be given by self-advocates, family advocates, academics and practitioners, from the UK and abroad.

We will end the conference by discussing the BELONG Manifesto, launched by theatre group Access All Areas, in conjunction with Baroness Sheila Hollins, Books Beyond Words and The Open University, earlier this year as part of the Madhouse Project. The BELONG Manifesto is accompanied by a new book on ‘Belonging’ published by Books Beyond Words. The purpose of the manifesto is to encourage all citizens to identify and commit to practical steps they can take to progress the inclusion of all people with learning disabilities in society. 

Keynote speakers

Sara RyanShaun from MLMCDawn from MLMC

Dr Sara Ryan; Shaun from MLMC; and Dawn from MLMC

We are delighted to announce that our keynote speakers this year are Dr Sara Ryan, and Shaun and Dawn from My Life My Choice (MLMC). Sara is a researcher at the University of Oxford and MLMC is a user-led self-advocacy group based in Oxfordshire. Sara and MLMC have worked together to lead the Justice for LB Campaign, following the preventable death of Sara’s son Connor in an NHS care unit in 2013. The campaign uncovered a wider failure by the NHS to appropriately care for people with learning difficulties.

Sara and My Life My Choice will discuss the campaign, reflecting on how family and self-advocates can work together for justice and change.

More details about the campaign can be found here: and on Twitter: @justiceforlb

Sara writes a blog ( and has recently published a personal account of the campaign:

Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – A Death by Indifference (London, JKP)

More details about My Life My Choice can be found on their website:

Professional development

Ensuring access to independent advocacy is now a key part of delivering excellence in health and social care services for people with learning disabilities and their families. Conference presentations will be of value to both newly qualified and experienced practitioners and managers working in the field of learning disability. Attendance at the conference will be certificated to count towards your CPD record.

Programme information

For more information about the programme, please click below.

Day 1 Programme

Day 2 Programme

Registration details

Please register for the conference by Monday 2nd July 2018.

There are a limited number of free sponsored places for people who genuinely cannot pay. You will need to request a free place by 14th May 2018. Please contact Lee Woodham to make a case for a free place ( / +44 (0) 1908 659082).

If you are making a case by email, please make sure it is no more than 300 words.  The Conference Committee will then make a decision about who can receive the free places, based on merit. We will let you know by 21st May 2018.

Please register via the Eventbrite website Register