Voice of Disability

Posted August 30, 2019

17th January 2020 – Great Western Railway launches new service for those with mobility issues

Great Western Railway Mobile Assistance Team
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Voice of Disability report easy read version

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Voice of Disability report press coverage

We have had press coverage about our Voice of Disability report since it’s launch. A scan of the article that appeared in the Newbury Weekly News on September 19th 2019 is attached below.

VOD report launch
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Healthwatch West Berks launches its co-produced Voice Of Disability Report

West Berkshire Voice of Disability Report
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Although the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act that followed have made huge improvements to the lives of those living with both physical and mental disabilities, there are still enormous barriers to everyday health and wellbeing in West Berkshire.

Railway stations are a prime example of where issues often still arise, with inappropriate facilities for those who find getting around challenging – this includes needing to give 24 hours’ notice to receive assistance in getting on and off trains and often be unable to sue trains at all if they are driver only.

Healthwatch West Berkshire’s Voice Of Disability Report raises questions about these sorts of issues, which were discussed at last year’s workshop, and provides a number of recommendations to improve life for the disabled in our community.

The report followed on from a hugely successful workshop in November 2018 held in collaboration with the Volunteer Centre West Berks, West Berkshire Independent Living Network (WBLIN) and seAp. It brought service users, carers, the voluntary sector together with health and social care professionals incl: The Care Quality Commission (CQC), Department of Work and Pension (DWP), Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group(BWCCG) and West Berkshire Council officers from Transport, Social Care, Community Mental Health, Public Health and also Thames Valley Police.

This report was launched at Hungerford Train Station. Images from the launch can be found below.


We’ve had some press coverage about Voice of Disability in the Newbury Weekly news on November 29th 2018

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Voice of Disability Event November 15th 2018

On November 15th we held our Voice of Disability event at the Catholic Hall in Thatcham. It’s purpose was to get people with disabilities, their carers, family and friends together to discuss the services that people with disabilities use. People shared their thoughts and experiences with HealthWatch West Berkshire, support groups and health and social care professionals present.  From the feedback obtained through this dialogue we have been able to identify what works well about these services, what needs to improve and what more could be done.

Lots of effort went into this event to ensure that all people – regardless of what disability they have, would be able to participate. For example, we ensured that a hearing loop was set up, that there was wheelchair access, interpreters and transport arrangements were in place.

The Thatcham Catholic Hall

The event started at 10:30am (with a 10:15am arrival) while it concluded at 2:00pm. We had a high turn out from a range of people, both public and professionals, including participation from Newbury College, West Berkshire Council, the Volunteer Centre, Public Health and Wellbeing, and many more who attended.

After people signed in and got settled down at their tables, our Chief Officer Andrew Sharp and Jackie Wilkinson from Open For Hope introduced Voice of Disability by explaining what the event was and what we hoped to achieve, all the while telling attendees that we’re eager to receive their feedback.

“This event is for you, to tell us whatever you need to” – Jackie Wilkinson

Participants then enthusiastically engaged with the first activity. They would discuss and identify among themselves at their tables, what works well and what the challenges are when it comes to services for people with disabilities. After a few minutes of discussion, one person from each table would then speak up to share the results of their groups discussion.

We gathered a variety of feedback from this activity. One table gave us an overview of how Healthcare and Surgery had worked well for them, while saying that communicating with the service providers could sometimes be tricky. Some of the groups came up with similar ideas to each other, while there was also feedback that was unique to individual tables.

As this activity concluded an opportunity then arose for people to ask questions.

Pictures showing people engaged in discussion and a video where feedback is being shared below.

After we listened and obtained feedback, Mike Harling (Principal Social Worker for Adult Social Care) and Alex Barrows (Social Care Practictioner from the West Team) started talking and taking questions about Adult Social Care. Some of this footage was captured in this short video clip below. You’ll also see a Tweet from Mike Harling which he posted shortly afterwards, praising the discussions that were occurring.

This was followed by our second activity where Matthew Pearce (Head of Public Health and Wellbeing) asked people “What they would like to see to improve their wellbeing?” and “What Health and Wellbeing means to you?”

People once again discussed this among themselves at their tables for a few minutes before sharing their feedback, just as they did with the first activity. A short video clip of people sharing their feedback about “What Health and Wellbeing means to you?” is below.

Sarita Rakhra (Lead Commissioning Manager – Transforming Care) then started giving everyone an overview of transforming care for people with learning disabilities and autism, while also taking questions.

“We want to ensure people with disabilities have health checks. Our  target is that 70% of people with disabilities have health checks” – Sarita Rakhra on transforming care program

After Sarita finished speaking, it was time for Lunch which Newbury College produced for us.

Once lunch concluded Garry Poulson (Director of Volunteer Centre) talked about the availability of Car schemes and transport services, saying that people can go to the Volunteer Centre website, or they can contact the Volunteer Centre to find out what schemes are available. Additionally we discussed local bus services and local challenges, where we obtained some interesting feedback such as buses sometimes driving off before people with disabilities were safely onboard. Questions were also posed to the public such as “Where do you go to report a complaint or submit feedback about transport services?”

In our third and final activity we asked participants to be somewhat creative by asking them in what way technology may be able to help people with disabilities in the future. Participants once again had discussions in their groups and then shared their feedback with us.

We had some great ideas emerge from this discussion, including the desire to see greater NRS co-ordination through emerging technologies, the suggestion that a parking app should be developed, in order to make a difference when it comes to people’s experience of going into busy town centres, as well as the suggestion that talking utility meters could be added to peoples households.

After this the event was concluded.

A report was created following the feedback we obtained from this event, the report then went to the Health and Wellbeing Board and was launched later on August 30th 2019.  We hope to see the results of this event having a positive impact.