Learning Disabilities and Autism: Equality and Empowerment

  • Thursday, 08 July 2021
  • The Studio, Manchester
  • 08:30 - 16:45
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • Overview

Prior to COVID-19 people with a learning disability or autism received inequitable consideration in supporting their health and wellbeing, access to appropriate education provision, suitable housing, meaningful employment and community services. The pandemic has compounded these circumstances, with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlighting the uneven impact the pandemic and measures to control the virus have had on this cohort - demonstrated by the disproportionate death rate of people with a learning disability or autism during the first wave (451 per 100,00 - 4.1 times higher than the general population) and the staggering mortality rate among young adults with a learning disability or autism - 30 times higher for those aged between 18 - 34, compared with that of the general population. 

Open Forum Events is proud to be recognised as a leading organiser of national conferences informed by the experiences of people living with or affected by learning disabilities and autism, driving forward the agenda of what can be done to support them. This year's conference will mark our seventh annual event providing a platform for learning through keynotes, panels, knowledge sharing and dissemination of best practice - discussing challenging topics, debating contentious issues and assessing the way forward.

Conference delegates will take away the following benefits of attending:

  • 10 CPD Points.
  • Discover how technology is promoting better outcomes and supporting individuals to express themselves, build confidence and maximise employment opportunities.
  • Examine the diverse impacts the pandemic and infection control measures are having on people living with a learning disability and/or autism - exploring the appropriate, positive action that can be pursued to support individuals; as well as reviewing how pre-existing, preventable health inequalities have been detrimental to the community, leading to avoidable deaths during the pandemic. 
  • Receive data-driven and personal insights into where growing prejudices, discrimination and hate crime against people living with learning disabilities and/or autism is taking place; learn best practices for safeguarding individuals from online harms.
  • Learn more about legislative changes, such as reform(s) to the Mental Health Act that will reduce the number of people with a learning disability or autism being sectioned and expand individual's autonomy over their own care.
  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair’s Opening Address


Keynote Address

  • Debbie Ivanova, Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Care Quality Commission (CQC) (confirmed)
"Transformation of How we Regulate Services for People with a Learning Disability and Autistic People"

Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many times over the past few years that people with a learning disability and autistic people are not getting access to the right care.  Despite significant national attention on this issues, over 2,000 people remain in hospital which is not in line with best practice.  In this session, we’ll talk about how the CQC have put in place a new role to focus on implementing changes to our regulation specifically for people with a learning disability and those that care for autistic people.


Join us to understand CQC’s key work areas in ensuring the right services are regulated and registered, that we are responding to risks swiftly and taking appropriate action and understanding pathways and healthcare.

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

United Response’s ‘Am I Your Problem?’ campaign challenges the indifference, discrimination and sometimes outright hostility shown towards people with learning disabilities or autism. The charity polled 150+ people it supported about their experiences within different social settings; the widespread prejudices and, in some instances, malice they face is often not acknowledged, recognised or reported as a hate crime. Joanne will be co-presenting alongside a person born with learning disabilities who will share their personal experience(s) of discrimination.


Headline Sponsor


Question and Answer Session

Joanne Silkstone, Learning and Development Manager, United Response (confirmed)

Speaker TBA

Headline Sponsor


Coffee in the Networking Area

  • 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 Learning Disabilities and Standards from a Patient and Staff Perspective?"

Sarah and Tracey will present on their experience of implementing the Learning Disabilities and Autism NHS Standards into an NHS Trust; providing delegates with a pathway for doing so themselves in a manner that ensures meaningful collaboration with carers and people who have a learning disability or autism.


Case Study

This slot is reserved for organisations looking to engage delegates with services and opportunities that compliment conference presentation and discussion panel topics. If you're interested in delivering a Case Study, contact us on 0161 376 9007.

"Mind of My Own - Express"

All children should be able to give voice to their lived experience - this is particularly important for younger children, even more so for those with a learning disability. Express is a co-designed, innovative and user-friendly app from Mind of My Own that helps children as young as two and those with additional needs express their views, wishes and feelings in a fun, digital way that’s easy for workers to understand and evidence. 


Question and Answer Session

Sarah Egley, Assistant Director of Improvement, Innovation and Assurance, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (confirmed)

Tracey Brailsford, Clinical Effectiveness Lead & Operational Quality Support Team Lead, Derbyshire Community Health Service NHS Foundation Trust (confirmed)

Jill Thorburn, Director, Mind of My Own (confirmed) 

Speaker TBA


Lunch in the Networking Area

We'll be working with venues to ensure lunch at our events is as delicious as ever and caters for a range of dietary preferences - whilst being served in a safe and seamless manner. Some of the new measures we will be introducing to this effect are:

  • One-way queuing systems with safe distancing in operation.
  • Individual snacking bags containing fruit, trail mix and sweets provided on arrival - this will prevent people mixing around snack bars during networking breaks.
  • Individually portioned dishes and pre-sealed cutlery will be served at collection points.  

Where possible, we will request food is sourced locally to reduce food miles, use seasonal vegetables, red tractor certified meat and eggs from free range hens.


Chair’s Afternoon Address

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

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 28x 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; astonishingly, almost half (44%) have never received a sight test or any other kind of eyecare service.


NHS England's Special School Eyecare Programme aims to provide a comprehensive eyecare service that goes beyond the provision of sight tests alone. For example, children who require glasses 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.


Case Study

This slot is reserved for organisations looking to engage delegates with services and opportunities that compliment conference presentation and discussion panel topics. If you're interested in delivering a Case Study, contact us on 0161 376 9007.


Speaker TBA

"Addressing Health Inequalities and Preventing COVID-19 Deaths"

The report Deaths of People Identified as Having Learning Disabilities with COVID-19 in England in the Spring of 2020 from Public Health England examined data from the English Learning Disabilities Mortality Review and NHS England's COVID-19 Patient Notification System which records deaths in hospital settings. The report's findings were unsettling, and included: 

  • The death rate of people with a learning disability from COVID-19 was up to six times higher than that of the general population during the first wave of the pandemic (451 per 100,000 people registered as having a learning disability died with COVID-19 between March 21st and June 5th); with some experts estimating that the rate may be as high as 692 per 100,000 - given not all deaths of people with learning disabilities are registered on these databases.
  • The mortality rate for people aged 18 - 34 with learning disabilities was 30 times higher than the rate in the same age group without disabilities.
  • People with a learning disabilities are likely to have had difficulties recognising symptoms of COVID-19 or following government advice as it pertains to testing, self-isolation, social distancing and infection prevention/control. 
  • Carers may find it difficult to recognise the early onset of COVID-19 symptoms in a person with a learning disability or autism if communication channels are poor.

This presentation will cover lessons learnt from the initial stages of the pandemic and spotlight the pre-existing, preventable health inequalities that have contributed to avoidable deaths in this cohort during the pandemic.


Question and Answer Session

Richard Everitt, Programme Manager, Optical Services Commissioning, NHS England and NHS Improvement (confirmed)

Speaker TBA

Speaker TBA


Afternoon Refreshment Break


Speaker TBA

"Reforming the Mental Health Act"

This presentation will explore major reform(s) of the Mental Health Act to reduce the number of people with learning disabilities and autism being sectioned. In its new white paper Reforming the Mental Health Act, the government cites that a person will only be detained if a 'co-occurring mental health condition is identified'. The presentation will cover a number of proposed changes to the Act, including:

  • The introduction of 'Advance Choice Documents' to enable people to express their wishes and preferences pertaining to their care whilst they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital.
  • Implementing the right for an individual to choose a 'Nominated Person' who is best placed to look after their interests under the Act if they aren't able to do so themselves.
  • Piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs.
  • Expanding the remit of 'Independent Mental Health Advocates' to offer increased support and representation to every patient detained under the Act.
  • 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. Five surveys were used to generate feedback from commissioners, providers, social workers, families/carers and people with learning disabilities. The recommendations are being delivered through the Cumbria Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board.


Question & Answer Session

Sue Stevenson, Chief Operating Officer, Healthwatch Cumbria (confirmed)

Speaker TBA


Chair’s Closing Remarks and Event Close

  • Register for event

Having difficulty paying through Eventbrite? If you would like assistance registering your place please contact me on 0161 376 9007 and i'll be happy to assist. If you are awaiting funding you can request us to hold your place today to ensure you do not miss out.

Discounts for 3 or more delegates are available.

Want to pay by invoice? If you select your tickets and click on the green Register button. Once you’re through to the registration page, you can switch payment method from Credit/ Debit Card to Pay by Invoice

Luke Boulter
  • Gain 10 CPD Points.
  • Hear from case studies exploring how people with learning disabilities can and have been supported to maximise their life chances, employment opportunities, educational achievement and live with a greater degree of independence - to an extent previously considered unattainable, thanks in-part to advances in the application of emerging technologies and shifts in cultural attitudes toward learning disabilities.
  • Learn more about proposed reform(s) to the Mental Health Act, including the introduction of processes enabling people to express their preferences for care before the need arises for hospitalisation; as well as piloting the use of culturally appropriate advocates for patients of ethnic backgrounds and ensuring learning disabilities and autism are not grounds for detention in themselves.  
  • Assess and learn from how pre-existing health inequalities contributed to disproportionate mortality rates among people with learning disabilities during the first wave of the pandemic. 
  • Gain insight into how the LD and Autism NHS Standards can be implemented within a Community Trust in a manner that ensures meaningful collaboration with carers and people who have a learning disability or autism.
  • Hear from the NHS England Special School Eyecare Programme - transforming eye care for children with learning disabilities and delivering a comprehensive eyecare service that goes beyond the provision of sight tests alone; set in the context of children with LD or autism being 28x more likely to have serious sight issues in comparison with the general population.
  • See first-hand demonstrations of the meaningful difference new technologies are making in the lives of people with learning disabilities. 
  • Learn more about how healthcare inequalities impacting the lives of people living with learning disabilities or autism can be addressed and the same level of protection assured to them as is experienced by the rest of the population.
  • Listen to people with diverse experiences of living with learning disabilities or autism and develop best practices informed by their circumstances in safeguarding from online harm(s), establishing good support networks and implementing/engaging with NHS initiatives. 
  • 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

  • Living Well with Autism: Beyond the Limitations

    • 28 May 2015
    • 08:00 - 13:30
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Autism: The Challenges and Opportunities

    • 01 June 2016
    • 08:30 - 14:00
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Improving Lives: Autism and Learning Difficulties

    • 12 October 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Improving Lives: Supporting Adults with Learning Disabilities

    • 31 January 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:15
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Learning Disabilities: Fulfilling Potential and Supporting Better Lives

    • 13 March 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:00
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Social Care Reform: Improving Care and Support for Older People

    • 01 November 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • 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