Disability bullying fight heads to Holyrood

Enable protest web

Enable Change Champions held a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament and met with MSPs

15th December 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Youngsters campaigning against bullies who target the disabled took their fight for change to the Scottish Parliament this week.

Change Champions from Enable Scotland told MSPs about their experiences of being bullied and their battle to promote change through understanding.

The group held a demonstration at Holyrood with placards featuring personal details about themselves and encouraging the public to challenge their perceptions on learning disability.

Recent research by Enable Scotland found that two thirds of the young people who have a learning disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder have experienced bullying.

Enable’s Be the Change campaign, supported by funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aims to tackle the bullying of people who have learning disabilities and to break down barriers and encourage respect, understanding, support and friendship.

The charity has supported the training of a group of Change Champions to deliver workshops across Scotland throughout 2018, giving people who have learning disabilities a platform to share their personal stories and raise awareness of unacceptable behaviour and practices.

James Anderson (14), from Arbroath, has moved on from being bullied to set up a home-help business in his community, offering ironing, cleaning and grocery shopping services.

“I am more than my disability,” he said. “I run my own business but people still only see things that I can’t do, not the things I’m good at.

“I wanted to be a Change Champion because I was bullied at school. I want to let people know, if they’re getting bullied they’re not alone.

“I want people to look behind the label and what they think they know about people with learning disabilities, people like me. All I can ask is that people take the time to get to know me for who I really am.”

Change Champion Lucy McKee (18), from Bearsden, said: “I won’t let bullies take my happiness away. Life is hard enough for people with learning disabilities without being bullied.

“I joined this campaign to make things better for myself, but also for others. I refuse to be a label someone else chooses for me. I have feelings, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.”

Alongside the demonstration, the youngsters took part in a discussion with MSPs and anti-bullying campaigners, including Graeme Dey MSP, Jackie Baillie, Jeremy Balfour and Pamela Graham from Respect Me.

The charity’s chief executive Theresa Shearer said: “We’re extremely grateful to our Change Champions for their hard work and for sharing their inspiring personal stories with a panel of experts at the Scottish Parliament. With their help, we hope to empower even more people to change perceptions of people who have learning disabilities for the long term.

“Through our Change Champions we want to engage with communities and individuals and give them the know-how and confidence to be the change themselves – to challenge unacceptable behaviour towards people who have learning disabilities when it occurs – but more than that, to be a friend.”