People First Dorset was set up in 2004 as a user led charity. This means we are led and run by people with learning disabilities, with support from staff as needed.
We want to be independent, be able to choose, and be included in community life. To achieve this we build each other's confidence, improve our communication skills, and develop our ability to challenge decisions together. This is called 'self-advocacy' or coming together, speaking up and leading change.
The foundation of self-advocacy is a strong connection to each other and our community. To achieve this, we provide a welcoming, fun and supported social network called the Friendship Club, which holds regular events in community places of our choice across Dorset. The Friendship Club reaches over 400 members, ensuring people with learning disabilities are included in society.
From these foundations, we then come together to understand our rights, develop our speaking up skills and raise issues that concern us, through 13 Speaking Up groups which meet across Dorset.
Finally, in our newly established Action Groups (currently 3), we meet up to collectively find and achieve solutions to issues raised at Speaking Up groups.
We also provide Easy Read services.
We believe that people with learning disabilities have a right to be assured of their independence, their ability to choose, and their inclusion in community life. This requires confidence, communication skills and the ability to challenge. People First Dorset achieves this for us.
Our projects begin by supporting people with learning disabilities to meet regularly in a variety of settings; to make friends or talk about issues important in their lives. This improves people’s confidence and communication skills, reduces social isolation, increases independence, supports better health and wellbeing, builds resilience and develops people’s ability to speak up and challenge decisions. We work to remove the barriers people with learning disabilities sadly still encounter in society, and strengthening their voices.
We currently directly support around 450 people with learning disabilities, and work alongside many other organisations, carers and professionals. We have an excellent reputation in the local community, as well as nationally, for the work we do.
For people with learning disabilities, we change lives by tackling loneliness and social isolation. We challenge discrimination, help improve health and wellbeing, and promote equality by enabling people to speak up and be heard.
Our projects empower people with learning disabilities to make and maintain friendships while connecting with their community; then develop their communication and speaking up skills, enabling them to become more independent and confident.
There are 1.5million people with a learning disability in the UK. We estimate c10,000 people have learning disabilities in Dorset, 400 of whom we already support. Can you help us make our community a more equal and inclusive place for all?
People with learning disabilities are involved in every level of PFD. We have a strong, effective board of 7 trustees, one of whom has a learning disability. Our Management Committee of 7 individuals, all of whom have a learning disability, work alongside the board, and have collective responsibility for overseeing operations and strategy. Of our twelve staff, three have a learning disability. We have 20 people with learning disabilities who volunteer for People First Dorset, alongside another 18 volunteers.
We continue to develop ways in which people with learning disabilities lead our decision making, and increase the number of people with learning disabilities employed in the organisation.