Learning Disabilities and Autism: Equality and Empowerment

  • Thursday, 15 April 2021
  • The Studio, Manchester
  • 08:30 - 16:30
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • Overview

There has been increasing acknowledgment as to the challenges that people with learning disabilities and/or autism face and the drive to ensure that individuals are not disadvantaged or have their life chances curtailed continues.  However, further progress and improvements are needed to allow for people to be supported to achieve and reach full potential, rather than just be cared for.

Open Forum Events is proud to be recognised as one of the leading organisers of events focusing on the circumstances and current situation for people living with or affected by a learning disability and/or autism.

The Learning Disabilities and Autism: Equality and Empowerment conference will be no exception in providing a platform to improve the lives of individuals through a series of presentations, discussions, knowledge sharing and dissemination of best practice.

Sadly, it is still the case that there are many discrepancies in the care and opportunities people with learning disabilities and/or autism experience, as compared to the general population. This vulnerable group receives inequitable consideration in supporting their health and wellbeing and access to education, housing, employment and community services. It was well documented that people with learning disabilities and/or autism suffer from premature death before the emergence of Covid 19, however, the pandemic has further exasperated the situation with both the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reporting an significant rise in deaths within this cohort and the Office of National Statistics (NAO) highlighting the uneven impact of coronavirus on different groups.

This conference will provide delegates with:

  • An update on how inequalities are affecting people with learning disabilities and/or autism and the positive support that can help people to have a good life and achieve their full potential
  • An insight into the prejudice, discrimination and hate crime that people face, simply because they are different, and how this has such a detrimental impact
  • A review of deaths of people with learning disabilities and/or autism due to Covid-19 and how health inequalities leads to premature and avoidable deaths

People with learning disabilities and/or autism face inequalities in every aspect of their lives. Accessing the right and most appropriate education provision can be difficult and hinder future life chances. The opportunities to secure meaningful employment are in short supply and together with a lack of suitable living accommodation curtails the option for people to live independent lives.
Within the community there are also situations that need to be overcome which include discrimination, prejudice and hate crime. The charity United Response has launched a campaign ‘Am I Your Problem’ to challenge the general public to consider the harm they may be inflicting on people with learning disabilities and autism through their actions and behaviour. Prejudicial attitudes can be a factor in social withdrawal, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
One of the greatest areas of inequality is in health and wellbeing. People with a learning disability and/or autism are more likely to suffer from worse physical and mental health than that of the general population. Premature deaths are of concern with men dying 23 years earlier than those in the general population and women 27 years earlier. It is known that many of these early deaths are from avoidable causes.
Figures released by The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have revealed that the pandemic could also be impacting inequitably on the lives of people with learning disabilities and/or autism. There was a 134% increase in deaths between 10th April and 15th May 2020, compared to the previous year. Of the 386 people who have died, 206 died, or were thought to have died, because of coronavirus.

Harry Roche, Ambassador at Mencap who has a learning disability, said:
“I feel very shocked by the news that there has been a 134% increase in the number of deaths of people with a learning disability, and I am worried that people with a learning disability are being forgotten in this crisis. We talk about COVID-19 all the time and the threat we are facing but no one is considering people with a learning disability, or people with a disability more generally, who are vulnerable.
People with a learning disability already face problems getting equal access to healthcare, ……….. and we cannot let this crisis make that even worse.”

Join us at The Learning Disabilities and Autism: Equality and Empowerment conference where attendees will hear from a line-up of expert speakers who will discuss challenging topics, debate contentious issues and analyse the way forward. Delegates will gain a true understanding of the current thinking which can be applied and positively contribute to their own circumstances, organisations and working practices to improve the lives of all those touched by learning disability and/or autism.


Read more
  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair’s Opening Address

Ciara Lawrence, Accessible Information Officer (Secondment), Mencap (provisionally accepted) 


Keynote Address

  • Christine-Koulla Burke, FPLD and Inequalities Lead, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (confirmed)
  • Patricia Charlesworth, Expert by Experience, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilties (confirmed)
"Prevention- What Works?"

Prevention and early intervention in developing positive support that helps people to have a good life.


Les Neal, Autism Consultant (confirmed)

synopsis to follow........

  • Joanne Silkstone, Learning and Development Manager, United Response (confirmed)
"Tackling Discrimination, Prejudice and Hate Crime"

Jo will be co presenting with a person with a learning disability who will share their experiences.
United Response’s ‘Am I Your Problem?’ campaign challenges the hidden indifference, discrimination and sometimes outright hostility towards people with learning disabilities or autism. The charity asked more than 150 people it supported about their experiences within different social settings. The widespread hostility and prejudice they face is often not acknowledged, recognised or reported as a hate crime.



Main Sponsor


Question and Answer Session


Coffee in the Networking Area


Case Study

  • Sarah Egley, Assistant Director Improvement, Innovation and Assurance, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (confirmed)
  • Tracey Brailsford, Clinical Effectiveness Lead & Operational Quality Support Team Lead, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust (confirmed)
"How do we measure ‘true’ implementation of the NHS LD and Standards from a Patients and Staff Perspective ?"

Sarah and Tracey would like to present about their experience of implementing the LD and autism NHS standards into a community trust, in a meaningful way ensuring they collaborated with people who have a LD or autism and their carers.

"Mind of My Own Express"

All children should have their voices heard. This is especially the case for those with a learning disability and younger children.
Express solves this problem. It’s a co-designed, innovative and user-friendly app that helps them express their views, wishes and feelings in a fun way that’s easy for workers to understand and evidence.


Case Study


Question and Answer Session


Lunch in the Networking Area

A hot, two-course lunch consisting of multiple options will be provided for delegates. We cater for all dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten/dairy-free; just notify us ahead of time should you have any allergens or requirements.


Chair’s Afternoon Address


Case Study

  • Sue Stevenson, Chief Operating Officer, Healthwatch Cumbria (confirmed)
"Everyone Has a Voice"

This Healthwatch Cumbria –(HWC) project explores the extent to which service provision for people with learning difficulties supported them to have a “good” life. 5 surveys were used to gain feedback from commissioners, providers, social workers, families/carers and people with learning difficulties. The recommendations are being delivered through the Cumbria Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board


Question and Answer Session


Afternoon Refreshment Break

  • Richard Everitt, Programme Manager: Optical Services Commissioning, NHS England and NHS Improvement (confirmed)
"NHS England Special School Eyecare Programme"

Presentation Synopsis
(two or three sentences outlining the theme of the presentation) Working closely with SeeAbility and experts from across the optical learning disability and SEND profession, NHS England has developed a new service that will transform eye care for children with learning disabilities and autism within a special school environment. This group of children are 28 x more likely to have serious sight issues in comparison with the general population, and approximately one third of them will need glasses. However, despite their greater need, research highlights that only 10% of these children have accessed services at a community optician, and 44% have never received a sight test or any other kind of eyecare service.

This programme aims to provide a comprehensive eyecare service that goes beyond the provision of sight tests alone. Children who require glasses for example will have them dispensed on the school premises, avoiding the need to redeem optical vouchers in optometry practices. And every child will receive a report written in plain English for parents and teachers that explains what the child can see, with advice and guidance on the strategies that can be adopted in the classroom and at home to improve the child’s level of engagement with their immediate environment. These reports will also feed into the child’s Education, Health and Care Plans.

The special school service represents an important first step towards NHS England’s broader ambition to improve access to sight tests for all people with a learning disability and autism, including children in mainstream schools and adults.



Afternoon Keynote Address

Speaker TBC


Question and Answer Session


Chair’s Closing Remarks


Event Close

  • Register for event

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Luke Boulter
  • Hear how people with learning disabilities can be supported to maximise their life chances and fulfil their true potential
  • Learn how prevention and early intervention measures can support better quality of life in the future
  • Gain insight into how the LD and Autism NHS Standards are implemented into a Community Trust
  • Understand how the issues of healthcare inequalities can be addressed and the same level of protection is assured as experienced by the rest of the population
  • Listen to examples of initiatives and activities that can boost the quality of life for people with learning disability and/or autism
  • Discover how technology is promoting better outcomes and supporting individuals to express themselves and build confidence
  • Be informed of the NHS England Special School Eyecare Programme that is transforming eye care for children with learning disabilities and autism within a special school environment
  • Benefit from the opportunity to question, discuss and debate with speakers and fellow professionals
  • Take advantage of knowledge sharing and professional networking
  • Gain CPD points.
  • Contact Details
  • Sponsors
  • Supporters
  • Venue
  • Featured Events
  • Downloads
  • Who will attend

Contact Details




The Studio, Manchester

The Studio, Manchester

Situated in the heart of Manchester's iconic Northern Quarter and just a couple of minutes walk away from the city's major transport links; The Studio is a spacious, contemporary meeting centre atop The Hive building on Lever St.     

Whatever the legendary Manchester weather has to throw at you, you’ll always find the warmest of welcomes at The Studio.

Featured Events

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  • Improving Lives: Autism and Learning Difficulties

    • 12 October 2017
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  • Improving Lives: Supporting Adults with Learning Disabilities

    • 31 January 2017
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  • Learning Disabilities: Fulfilling Potential and Supporting Better Lives

    • 13 March 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:00
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  • Social Care Reform: Improving Care and Support for Older People

    • 01 November 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:30
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  • The 7th Learning Disabilities and Autism: Promoting Positive Outcomes Conference

    • 24 September 2019
    • 08:30 - 15:45
    • ETC.Venues Prospero House, London
  • Learning Disabilities and Autism: Promoting Positive Outcomes

    • 12 March 2019
    • 08:30 - 15:45
    • Manchester Conference Centre

Downloads & Resources

  • Open Forum Events Sponsorship Brochure
    Open Forum Events offer a number of partnership, sponsorship and exhibition opportunities that can meet your marketing and business development needs.

who will attend

  • Carer
  • Clinical Commissioning Group member
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Councillor
  • Direct Payment Team member
  • Director / Manager of Care Homes
  • Director of Adult Mental Health Services
  • Director of Adult Safeguarding
  • Director of Adult Social Services
  • Director of Community / Domiciliary Care
  • Director of Disability Services
  • Director of Older People's Services
  • Director of Public Health
  • Director of Supported / Sheltered Housing
  • Doctor
  • DoLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) Co-Ordinator
  • Health and Wellbeing Boards member
  • Health Visitor
  • Learning Disability / Disability Liaison Nurse
  • Neighbourhood and Community Policing Team member
  • Nurse
  • Outreach worker
  • Personalisation and Self-Directed Support Team member
  • Probation Officer
  • Safeguarding Adults Board member
  • Senior Police Personnel
  • Support Worker