Late last year the Government created the innovative Regional Stakeholder Networks to bring the voice of people with disabilities into the heart of Government. Their aim is to bring together the views, ideas, and lived experiences of the disabled community and those who work with them (ranging from family and social care to bodies in local government, charities, the NHS, and beyond).
With these insights, we will give a new voice to the disabled community in the regions and inform national policy makers on how national policies affect the North East. The Networks exist to empower the disabled community and to allow their experiences to be heard locally and nationally.
The lockdown has had a massive impact upon the UK in all parts of our society. The network has received lots of feedback from across the North East region regarding how the situation is affecting them. To respond to this situation, we set up a project in collaboration with Northumbria University to allow the Network to get a wider understanding on how this emergency is affecting us in the North East.
For this ongoing project we seek to work with individuals, carers, groups, local authorities, care providers and stakeholders. Your organisation has been invited to participate either by a member of our working group or a local or regional network. We are particularly interested in getting your response given your work with and expertise of those living with disabilities in the North East. Your knowledge of the disabled community would allow us to gain a more detailed picture of the region and help us discover the needs and concerns of the region’s disabled community, both in general and during this current situation. As a first step to start this initiative we have set up a survey to inquire how funding and the current situation influence what your organisation is able to do for those living with disabilities in your region. We would like to invite you to fill this survey out on behalf of your organisation.
Our first aim is to gather feedback on an initial set of questions to get an overview of some of the views and knowledge from organisations in the region. This initial consultation is being carried out by Northumbria University on behalf of the Regional Stakeholder Network.
Informed by the gathered responses, a wider consultation will be developed to actively engage the disabled community and invite them to share their lived experiences and talents. Through these conversations we aim to gain a more comprehensive picture of the experiences of individuals and organisation generally, and specifically of the lock-down and other restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The insights gained through these activities will be analysed in relation to current national policy.
We aim to inform Government with the outcomes of this project: The insights gained on the experiences of individuals and organisations, the evaluation of existing policies in relation to these insights, and recommendations to Government arguing for specific changes in existing policy. We will raise the issues identified by the North East Community with national bodies, specially the Cabinet Office Disabilities Unit of the Government.
Due to the situation in which we are all advised to stay home, and face-to-face research is suspended, we will contact individuals and organisations using a range of technologies and methods. This way, we aim to reach those that are currently staying at home.
In the longer term it is hoped that we can work together to build a network to empower the disabled community, to help strengthen the collective voice of people with disabilities (their families and carers) and the organisation who work with them to improve our understanding and develop practical solutions on an ongoing basis. This dynamic system will allow us to create a range of suggestions and solutions for the North East.
The North East Network and this consultation are a proactive and dynamic attempt to revolutionise how individuals and those who support them can have a voice in issues of Government policy that affect them. These networks are the first of its type ever attempted by Government with this set of communities. Together we can empower the local community and deliver solutions to government, together we give our region a voice.
With kind regards,
Chair of Regional Stakeholder Network North East