Defending your democratic rights

The Being Heard in Government Group are a force to be reckoned with. They not only challenge decision makers to be more inclusive, they have truly helped make democracy more accessible. Here’s how they made it onto the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2021:

By being present, working hard to understand complicated issues and representing other people with learning disabilities they are making sure the issues important to over a million people are listened to.

“I am in awe of the commitment the group has shown to challenging the way people with learning disabilities are seen in the democratic and political sphere. They will take on any challenge and find ways to overcome barriers and discrimination.”

Made up of 8 members, the group’s achievements are incredible.

Interviewed by BBC and ITV

Each time there is a local or national election the BHIG group holds an accessible hustings event so that local people with learning disabilities can meet and ask questions to our local candidates.

During the last election the group featured on both the BBC and ITV.

Met with the Minister for Democracy

Chris Skidmore MP visited Speak Out during his tour of the country while he investigated ways to improve democratic involvement.

The group presented a short report in which they highlighted that often the gatekeepers to community involvement are support workers and carers. Much more needs to be done to ensure that all people with learning disabilities are offered democratic involvement as a right.

Campaigned for changes to the Mental Capacity Act

When the group heard about the changes to the Deprivation of Liberty section of The Mental Capacity Act (MCA), they felt very strongly that the rights of people with learning disabilities could be overlooked.

They wrote to their MPs, and Caroline Lucas MP for Brighton Pavilion contacted Caroline Dinenage MP – at the time the Care Minister responsible for this legislation.

She invited members of the group to consult with the amendment team about the concerns of people with learning disabilities. They met with the team over three months to support wider campaigning in the sector.

The result? Many amendments to the original proposals were made. Members of the group felt proud to have played a part in that.

Secured funding for and produced a film

There is a local organisation called Brighton Soup. They run a social evening where all of the proceeds from the ticket sales are given to the winner of a Dragon’s Den-type event and local community groups pitch for the money.

The BHIG group members put together their pitch and delivered it to a crowd of 100 people. They beat 3 other really worthy causes to win!

This money went towards the making of a film which we hoped would help raise the profile of people with learning disabilities.

Training politicians at party conference

Each year political parties come to Brighton for their national conferences. The group always attend whichever party it is and learn how the parties work.

They were invited by a member of Wimbledon Labour Party to talk at a Party Conference Fringe event. The group prepared their presentation; sharing the important message that people with learning disabilities want to vote but they often need support to do that.

Many people came to speak to the group after and the leader of Wimbledon Council, at the time, said he was going to make some changes at his council meetings to ensure that people with learning disabilities are supported better to get involved.

Addressed political demonstrators

During the years since the BHIG group started, there have been many demonstrations against cuts to local services.

Members of the group are always very visible at these demos. At a meeting outside Brighton Town Hall, Rohan gave a speech to the crowd about the real effect the loss of local services was having to people with learning disabilities.

Won a position on the Leaders’ List 2021

We’re thrilled to welcome BHIG onto the national Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List! They beat hundreds of brilliant entries to come out as 2021 Leaders and we hope you’re as inspired by their work as we are!

Why do they continue to fight for democracy?

“Our democratic processes are not easy for people to get involved in; language is inaccessible and they often involve long-winded meetings.

“But the group has always turned up.

“They learnt very early on how much power is in just being present while decision makers are talking about you!

“They have learnt to speak in public and to large rooms of people.

“They have learnt how important it is for people to hear their voices.

“Often, people are speaking out for the first time. For some people it takes time to see and feel how important it is and they feel empowered right away. That in turn builds confidence to do it again and again.”

Support their work


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Meet the members

Katie Lord | Jamie Larcombe | Andy Saunders | Rohan Lowe | Michael Harris | Ian Metherell | Gayle Driver | Stuart McCallion

How does it feel to win?