This month James Evans, Health Inequalities Volunteer at VHS, met up with the staff at Mindroom. Mindroom is a small Scottish charity with a big vision – to ensure that by 2020, every child and adult with learning difficulties will receive the recognition and help they need. They have a very welcome and inclusive definition of ‘learning difficulty’ as a “problem of understanding or an emotional difficulty that affects a person’s ability to learn, get along with others and follow convention.”
The majority of the work that is undertaken by Mig, Lisa and Norma is working with families or carers supporting those with a learning difficulty. As well as this, they work directly with individuals with learning difficulties, bringing together other agencies to improve effectiveness and impact.
For Norma, health inequalities in relation to individuals with learning difficulties are related to getting access to information and having the opportunities to increase wellbeing. Another health inequality that was identified was loss of paid employment, as the parents often struggle to work due to their child’s learning difficulties, which can also have an adverse effect on a marriage. This is why looking after themselves as both a parent and a carer is vital, as in turn it may have a disruptive effect upon the child. They feel that our society has a blind spot towards individuals with learning difficulties. It is clear that the team at Mindroom have a deep understanding of health inequalities and how they are to be tackled.
Mindroom is tackling health inequalities with various methods which in turn creates more awareness. Mig and Lisa work one-to -one with families and carers. By doing this they are able to bridge the gap of the unequal access to information. One-to-one work is seen as critical. This work can include being present at meetings to facilitate communication and keep the interests of the child/individual with learning difficulties at the centre of the discussion. Norma is based in the office. She is able to disseminate information about the rights of parents and children under legislation, as well as the duties upon education authorities to identify and address additional support needs. People may not be aware of various support networks that are around them. Another way, in which these health inequalities are tackled by Mindroom, is through the use of training programmes that are delivered to parents, carers and professionals. By educating people about learning difficulties of all kinds, and linking them with various support networks , as well as discussing a range of support strategies, it can make it a much less daunting task for a family or carer.
It is clear that Mindroom is doing its utmost to tackle the health inequalities that are faced by the families they support. The staff at Mindroom praised the Scottish Government for the implementation of the Additional Support for Learning Act and the Equality Act, and were positive in welcoming “Getting It Right for Every Child”. However they did feel that there were some issues for the Scottish Government to develop. They felt that it is vital for policies and laws that are made to be implemented effectively and also funded for a sustained period of time. This would help ensure appropriate support for the individuals who require it. Mig suggested that the presumption of mainstream school for children should be reviewed. Just now all children with learning difficulties are required to attend mainstream school to start with, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This can disrupt a child in a vital stage in their life as children with learning difficulties do not always adapt well to change.
From meeting with the staff at Mindroom it was clear that they are committed to supporting families and carers. Having such effective networks allows families access to vital information which in turn will instil a sense of control and improve their health and wellbeing. It is important for many families or carers to have support in order for their children to benefit fully from the services available to achieve their full potential. For more information please visit their website.