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A safety net for families too

We understand the impact supporting a loved one with learning disabilities can have on the people around them so we always offer a warm welcome to family members and carers as well as the people who are directly supported by our services. We believe in a person-centred approach, making sure we tailor the help we give to the needs of every person and family we work with.

We recently received a letter from the sister of two men with learning disabilities who come along to some of our groups. We’ve worked with this family a lot in recent years and along with Age Concern – Tyneside South have helped them through a number of difficult life events. This letter shows how, with the right support, people with learning disabilities can adapt to and overcome difficult circumstances, but also the impact this has on family members and the importance of supporting them too.

“It was good to see you all in the breakfast club. What a warm welcome we received and it was great to see everyone having a good time. It was nice to attend without a pressing problem and we were able to relax. At long last we can see good progress and we could not have come this far without the help of Your Voice Counts and Age Concern.

“So, I feel now is a good time to reflect on how much you have all helped my brothers, M and K, but also how valuable your help has been for me. It is a worry to me how people with learning disabilities access any service on their own. Someone has to alert them to the services and that often starts with the inability to fill in a form. As it is I had problems. I didn’t know how to access the help my brothers needed. I will list the things that have helped me along a massive learning curve.

“The death of my other brother nearly four years ago was the start of me realising how my brothers relied on him for everything. I had no idea he did so much for them till I had to do it. Their learning disabilities were hidden because everything was done for them and they asked for no outside help.

“A year later the death of our mother highlighted M’s particular problems and this is the main reason I came to Your Voice Counts. I didn’t have a clue where to start. Not only were we all grieving we were faced with tenancy issues. We believed that my brothers would have tenancy of their house as they had both lived there 50+ years. This was not the case and a drawn out battle followed. My brothers are really vulnerable and a case was made to show that it would be detrimental to them to move house. We also received help from two councillors and eventually the tenancy was given to my brothers. I found the process a nightmare. We all should have been grieving and were subjected to this ordeal. We were fortunate that we had people to support us.

“M had looked after my mother as a carer for years and now we had to access Universal Credit. We were fortunate that we received help and all the computer access was on my computer and my telephone. M was totally shell-shocked. During this time M was assessed as having a learning disability. Antony was great talking to us and helping us to understand.

“Then Covid struck which gave M time to breathe. He was always quiet, withdrawn and liked his own space. Your Voice Counts kept in touch with him and he gained a trust in Joss and Danielle. This gave me comfort knowing that if I was not available they could show any letters to Your Voice Counts if they were worried.

“Sorry to make this into an essay but I have to say that the help for me during this process has been excellent. I will attach a blog which I think describes the often overlooked situations relatives find themselves in. You will see I’m the person in the empty chair.

“Your Voice Counts and Age Concern have offered me the support I so much needed. Please never lose the awareness of the big picture.”

We are able to offer support to people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families and carers in Gateshead and South Tyneside. Please do contact us if you need any help. Thank you to this family for allowing us to share their story.


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