Learning Disabilities and Autism: Tackling Inequalities and Promoting Opportunities

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

In more recent times the learning disability and autism sector has deservedly been the focus of greater attention. With approximately 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 1% of the population with an autism spectrum condition it is a continuing process to make things better for those that are living with or affected by learning disability and/or autism.

Open Forum Events has and enviable reputation for hosting highly informative, practical and thought-provoking meetings, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss, debate and help formulate future policy and action.

The Learning Disabilities and Autism: Improving Care conference will be no exception in continuing to drive the agenda to improve lives.

There has been some significant activity and new developments in recent months and this conference, with the insightful contributions from the expert speakers, will provide delegates with updates on:

  • How the NHS investment of £5 million will improve the care for people with a learning disability and the action plan to reduce unavoidable and premature deaths based on the data from the Learning Disability Mortality Review.
  • Two reports highlighting the concerns for people that have been hospitalised in mental health facilities, often on a long-term basis many miles from home, and the treatment and care practices they are subject to including segregation and restraint.
  • The positive steps being taken to improve outcomes including training for professional staff, recognising and reducing discrimination, alleviating isolation, curbing overzealous medicating and showcasing inspirational influence.

As we enter 2020 join us at the Learning Disabilities and Autism: Improving Care conference with the hope that by the end of the decade, if not sooner, inequalities will be a thing of the past for people with learning disability and/or autism.

In May 2019, NHS England announced an extra £5 million of funding specifically to care for people with a learning disability. The prime concerns include the scale of premature deaths of people with learning disabilities and/or autism, based on the latest data that has revealed that individuals are dying 25 years earlier than the general population. The NHS is committed to carrying out reviews improve care and take action nationally to tackle serious conditions. 

To further enhance care and treatment, the Department of Health and Social Care has undergone a consultation focusing on specialist training for health and care professionals to better understand the needs of people and make the necessary adjustments to support them.

A report by the Children’s Commissioner has revealed harrowing evidence of children, particularly those who are autistic or have a learning disability, being unnecessarily admitted to secure hospitals, some spending prolonged periods in these institutions, often a long way from home, family and friends. Some of the practices these children are subjected to are significantly disturbing with the report describing the use of restraint and seclusion. The Commissioner described these children as "some of the most vulnerable children of all, with very complex needs, growing up in institutions usually far away from their family home. For many of them this is a frightening and overwhelming experience. For many of their families it is a nightmare."
In another hospital report, undertaken by the CQC, it warns that patients with learning disabilities and autism are being let down by a ‘broken’. Prolonged segregation, wards unsuitable for autistic patients and a lack of training of staff were just some of the issues highlighted.

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 also be a factor in social withdrawal, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. One scheme to try and combat this is fronted by Ambitions about Autism. Young people form the charity have launched a new resource to help other young autistic people to access youth groups and after school activities.

Other positive action to improve people’s situations is the continuing STOMP programme dedicated to reducing the use of psychotic medication to treat challenging behaviour. The use of technology is also a force for good and can support people to access the care they need, remain as independent as possible and help connect to social networks.

There is plethora of pioneering work being done and significantly a great deal is being undertaken by those who have a learning disability and /or autism themselves and therefore have the best understanding of what is required to make improvements.

This conference is the next installment, in a series of highly insightful events, focusing on improving care, support and life chances for all those living with or affected by learning disabilities and/or autism.

Read more
  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair’s Opening Address


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........

"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 Quality Governance 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)

"Implementing the LD and Autism NHS Standards into a Community Trust"

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

"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 report looked at how people with a learning disability can experience a life like we all experience. It found that inequalities start almost from birth.


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

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
  • Hear how people with learning disabilities can be supported to maximise their life chances and fulfil their true potential
  • Learn how the transformation of services and the support provided is allowing for greater opportunities to self-advocate and make choices
  • Gain insight into how the rights of people with learning disabilities can be defended and upheld
  • 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
  • Gain knowledge of the steps needed to be taken to co-ordinate care, support and treat children and young people with complex needs (and behaviour that challenges), also involving mental health problems and learning disabilities and/or autism
  • Listen to the measures being taken to support independent living and how housing and accommodation initiatives are crucial to successful outcomes
  • Examine the current situation for people nearing the end of their lives and discuss how things can be improved
  • Listen to examples of initiatives and activities that can boost the quality of life for people with learning disability
  • With life expectancy improving and more people living into their later years, learn how dementia is impacting
  • Benefit from the opportunity to question, discuss and debate with speakers and fellow professionals
  • Take advantage of knowledge sharing and professional networking
  • Gain the maximum number of 7 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

  • 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