Young disabled group debate issues in Portsmouth City Council chamber

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COUNCIL tax, transport and employment opportunities were just a few issues debated by a group of young disabled people in the Portsmouth City Council chamber last week.

Eight members of the Leonard Cheshire’s Can Do programme, known as Can Doers, met councillor and MP Stephen Morgan on Friday to consider solutions to some of the obstacles they face.

As part of World Youth Skills Day the members, split into two teams, took it in turns to make their points as well as responding to thoughts from their peers.

A major issue discussed by the group was a lack of paid work for people with disabilities. Lily Scott, 20, said: ‘Volunteer work is not good for disabled people. I have asked lots of places if I can earn money and they said no. At the end of the day we have to learn how to earn money as well.’

Carly Blake, 22, agreed. ‘We need experience earning money because we need to know what it is going to be like when we live independently,’ she said.

Her teammate George Found, 22, who uses a wheelchair, said: ‘I recently tried to get a job at a cinema. However, many staff areas are inaccessible in the work place, for example the staff room.’

Using public transport was also a problem for many.

Ewan Butterworth, 19, said: ‘I want to help people with disabilities learn to travel independently. When people are nervous they can find it hard to use buses and trains.’

Sally Roper, 26, from the other team felt the same. ‘People might need help with understanding information about travel. More staff at stations might be useful for that,’ she said.

Speaking after the debate Carly said: ‘Being part of this debate has given me the opportunity to give my own opinions and to have my voice heard on behalf of other people who aren’t as able or can’t communicate as well. Sometimes disabled people can experience a lack of encouragement and a lack of confidence because they are not listened to by professionals.’

Cllr Stephen Morgan was impressed by the group’s debating skills. ‘It was a delight to take part in the debate with Can Do. These young people could have a bright future in politics ahead of them if they continue to debate as well as they did today,’ he said.