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your voiceyour rightsyour choice

Guest blog: volunteering with SURGE

30th September 2016

As part of my two weeks volunteering at The Advocacy Project, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Speaking Up Rights Group Experts (SURGE) at Voluntary Action Camden (VAC).

My first week with The Advocacy Project was mostly spent in the office, so I was excited to go out and see the organisation’s work in action.

Whilst most of my energy was focused on not getting lost, a part of me was a little nervous. I had been doing research surrounding the issues that people with learning disabilities face, particularly relating to benefits and employment. This was the first time I would be working closely with the people who experience these issues first hand.


Meeting everyone

Everyone I spoke to was really friendly, telling me about their involvement with the group and a trip they had just returned from. When I told them I was helping with a parliamentary reception about employees with learning disabilities, their reaction proved to me how important the research is that I’m doing.

The group were performing five role-plays based on different forms of abuse named in the recent Care Act:

  • organisational abuse
  • self-neglect
  • modern day slavery
  • domestic abuse
  • employment discrimination

This is additional to the existing safeguarding videos they have made into an informational DVD.


They’ve got talent

I was impressed at the group’s experience and clear acting talent in front of the camera. They’ve already made videos for organisations including University College London Hospital.

The process of filming was at times hilarious; one member played the busy support worker with such comic timing that no-one could stop laughing. And it was also heart-breaking: the enactment of modern day slavery left me with shivers.

However, it was watching the systematic unfairness of the employment role-play that really stood out for me, where an employer refuses to give a person a job because of their learning disabilities. It was so unreasonable and yet so common.


A learning experience

From talking to the group members and leaders, I realised that I still have a lot to learn about the experiences and types of everyday discrimination affecting people with learning disabilities. It is so important to get these issues out and discussed in society.

Whilst I only spent a short amount of time with SURGE it was a rewarding experience of an empowering service which definitely made me want to get further involved.


Lauren Hurrell

Volunteer, The Advocacy Project


Further information

The Advocacy Project


Our user involvement projects