Something inside so strong

It’s summer, I’m in the office, the radio is on and sometimes songs come on the radio just at the right time! ‘Something inside so strong’ has just played and it brought to mind the determination, bravery and strength of so many people with learning disabilities, their families and supporters who keep standing up and saying no,enough is enough!

I’ve met so many people across the country over the past couple of week and there is so much I could write about.

I could focus on the people I am working with who feel defeated by the ‘system’. They feel defeated by staff who appear to have little human interest in them and by managers often feeling overwhelmed by the current financial challenges. This is worth writing about at some point, as our work at Paradigm focuses on the support people need to get and stay focused on what really matters, but for now I want to share the thoughts the song triggered in my head.

So, the conversations and stories replaying in my mind are the voices and stories of a number of people with learning disabilities, family members and supporters. Some people I’ve known for a long time, others I am just getting to know.

• A woman who, with the love of her Sister and family is achieving so much of what she’s dreamt about for a long time. A woman who keeps getting back up and saying ‘I’m not giving up.’ By the way – I also had a flash back of this woman singing this song in my car one day and saying….’You ain’t going to stop me.’

• A man living in a place with staff that he doesn’t feel respect him. A man who doesn’t like strangers and things happening at short notice. A man who was ‘told’ last week he had to have his annual review this week. Why? Because the social worker needed to get it done by the end of the month!

He and his Mum felt they had no choice or the funding would be threatened. Not only was the social worker a stranger but she turned up with her manager (another stranger) who had to observe her.

After an hour, the man stood up and left because he was angry that people were sharing private things about him. Brave man! Next time he knows he’ll say he wants more notice and no strangers. He won’t accept anything else!

• A 96 year old woman who lived in a large organisation for over 20 years and now, living in a shared house, still has dreams of living in a cottage with views over the hills. It’s not too late!

• A Mum who’s really struggling, with her daughter, to find good Personal Assistants who really ‘get who her daughter is.’ Even though it’s tough there is no sign of either giving up.

Whilst I’m celebrating the strength of the people above, I’m also saddened and angry that they have to be so strong when all they want is to live life!

We are all working to a future where people who don’t have to face such challenges to living good ordinary lives. We’ll be reporting on our ‘Creating Positive Cultures’ project soon, sharing the challenges, ideas and action. This work continues our drive for ensuring good ordinary lives for all.

What can you do NOW to ensure people know they have the right to be free, to say NO, to live a life of their choosing, to ask new questions and demand respect?

To quote Labi Siffre:

“The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The further you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide
To turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong”

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