A celebration of the progress and achievements of the Learning Disability and Autism (LDA) Collaborative was held recently at a special event to mark the Collaborative’s first year.

Over 20 speakers from seven different local organisations – including the local NHS and local authorities – shared insights into the range of work being undertaken to transform services across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR). These insights, alongside contributions from experts by experience, families and young people, illustrated the overwhelmingly positive impact the work the Collaborative is already having.

Some of these successes include:

  • LLR is now second in the Midlands and in the top ten in England for the number of completed annual health checks. Previously, LLR was in the bottom third.
  • The Forensic Community Learning Disability Service helps people transition from secure hospitals into the community. This takes a huge amount of dedication from everyone involved. No one who’s been supported by this service has returned to a secure hospital.
  • More people are being supported to prepare for work, during the interview process and in work once they have got a job. This means fewer people are having to depend on benefits and are thriving in fulfilling careers.
  • A whole range of activities to reduce inequalities are ongoing in the community. These include specialist vaccination clinics, holding specialist screening sessions and the introduction of health equity champions in the community.
  • The mobile vaccination unit was used over the summer to meet people in their own communities and provide information on annual health checks, dental health and cancer screening. A fun environment was created, including using disco lights and a goody bag for everyone to take away.
  • The creation of Autism Space – a website full of advice, information and support around all things relating to autism, which is proving really popular and a vital resource for many local autistic people and organisations.
  • The Specialist Autism Team hold workshops, including ‘Understanding my Autism’ covering communication, understanding behaviour and mental health and autism. They’ve also developed the Chat Autism text messaging support service.
  • The LDA Collaborative’s Quality Group – the only one nationally working in a collaborative – provides clinical scrutiny with support from a range of health and social care professionals, who ensure improvements continue to be introduced.
  • The LLR Keyworking Service and Parent Carer Forums provide a great deal of support. Parents have told us how keyworkers have been their most positive experience and interaction while trying to support their children and helping to communicate with schools.

The day began with LDA Collaborative lead, Mark Roberts, an assistant director at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust noting the inclusive, welcoming, supportive and diverse nature of the Collaborative, and encouraged the group of nearly 100 participants to prioritise learning, early intervention, and opportunities to build more resilient local community networks.

Collaborative leaders from health and social care paired up with experts by experience throughout the day to bring powerful presentations and first-hand accounts of the improvements they had been involved in. They facilitated engaging discussions on how best to increase local employment opportunities and how to provide support for the carers who provide such a valuable and often unseen role.

Professional leads from health and social care picked up Mark Robert’s suggestion of ‘learning as a priority’ with enthusiasm in their session; setting out the wide range of work that the Collaborative’s Quality Group has progressed and their aspirations for the future, whilst the Collaborative’s health equity lead, local authority commissioning lead and Primary Care Liaison Nurses impressed the audience with the extraordinary range, creativity and determination of their work in addressing the inequality in health outcomes experienced by local people with a learning  disability and autistic people.

Participants enjoyed their picnic lunch accompanied by Thomas Cordon, an autistic young man and renowned local pianist from the Melton Mowbray area, who demonstrated his extraordinary talents at the keyboard.

Each session gave participants the opportunity to get up to date with the work of the Collaborative and to celebrate their own contributions and successes. They were encouraged to look ahead to the work that is still needed and to shape plans for the future. The group celebrated the new services that have been established in the last year and key areas of development were identified in early intervention and prevention, as well as a desire to ensure that the powerful stories of people with lived experience continue to shape local services.

The day was a vibrant mix of cultures, new ideas, celebrations of success and hopes, ambition and determination for the future. Mark Roberts rounded off the celebration with encouragement for everyone to maintain high aspirations for the lives of local people with a learning disability and autistic people, for the services provided and for themselves as carers and staff working in their vital area of LLR’s health and care system.

The next major event for the LDA Collaborative is a Health Equity conference on 28 February 2024 with both local and regional contributors. Booking details of this event will follow.