Shropshire Council

ICS appoints champions for Learning Disability and Autism

10 February 2022 Last updated at 10:42

Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS have appointed their first two Learning Disability and Autism (LD&A) Champions

Their role is to raise the profile of people with learning disabilities and autism in mainstream health and social care services and look at how the ICS can improve how they support autistic people and people with learning disabilities.

Taking up the positions are Janet Cobb and Eric Heath. Between them, they have a wealth of experience and lived experience to offer services outside of specialist provision.

Janet has extensive experience working in the NHS and with people who have a learning disability, so will be focusing on the learning disability aspect of the role. She spent time working as an independent consultant with a range of charities, public bodies, individuals with learning disabilities and their families. She also established and ran the UK Health and Learning Disability Network.

Eric Heath is an autistic Expert by Experience, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and Dyspraxia. In 2004 Eric co-founded Autonomy, a self-help and social group for autistic adults.

He also works for the Department of Health and Social Care as an Expert Advisor, and NHSE/I Midlands Autism Workstream, where he has played a role in informing and contributing to the new ‘National Autism Strategy for Children, Young People and Adults’ and the NHSE/I ‘Long Term Plan’ – as well as other strategies and research projects. Eric’s focus will be on autism and autistic people..

Janet and Eric told us: “We both want to make a difference to the lives of people with learning disability or autism across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.  

“As champions we aim to ensure that at every decision, the board and services think about inclusion of people with learning disabilities and autism. The involvement of people with expert experience, such as ourselves and our wider networks, will play a part in achieving this.

“We are glad to be able to bring our personal and professional experience to the work of the ICS and the local systems. As people who live in the area, we are not removed from the issues people encounter in their day to day lives – we live them too – and these experiences inform our work”

Eric added: “I feel it is important that as an autistic person, I have been engaged to champion for people with the condition I was diagnosed with, in the area I have lived in for the majority of my life, rather someone championing on my behalf.”

The champions have a set of objectives to fulfil as part of their role, including: ensuring people with learning disabilities and autism are considered in projects, decisions and investments, making their, their families and carers voices heard across the ICS, support the reduction of health inequalities and provide expert advice to stakeholders and partner organisations.

The champions are keen to make contact across the spectrum of services in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and have already started conversations with public health initiatives and strategies including on weight and diabetes, substance misuse, SaTH, West Mercia Police, Maternity and Shropshire Partners in Care.