H Team brings learning disability to life for trainee social workers

15 January 2019.

The next generation of social workers from Coventry University have been getting an insight into people with a learning disability directly from the very people who know the most about it!

Grapevine’s Sam and a core group of people with different learning disabilities who make up the H Team visited the university last month for the innovative session.

The H Team
Here come the H Team!

The ‘H’ stands for Health and that is what the team is all about – educating peers, professionals and services alike on how to stay healthy and well when you have a learning disability.

This advice and training is vital for a section of the community proven to have generally poorer physical and mental health and a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the population.

But it wouldn’t be this way if there was greater uptake on annual health checks with GPs, promptly diagnosed health conditions, effective treatment and more informed self care.

And improvements can always be made in the way health and social care professionals communicate with people with a learning disability – hence the need for some interesting training right at the beginning of a career in social work.

During the Coventry University awareness session, students were able to get to know the seven members of the H Team, each one with his or her own unique story, likes and dislikes.

Games and quizzes helped break down any barriers, including one called ‘Scaredy Pants’ where the students wrote their fears on paper pants hung on a make-shift washing line.

Each fear was examined with H Team participants giving students advice and strategies to help overcome them. Some fears were even reflected on both sides – for example, a fear of communicating in a way that was not understood or misinterpreted. The students didn’t want to make a person uncomfortable and the H Team didn’t want to appear ‘stupid’ for not understanding.

The ‘New Perspective’ game then sees society’s labels discarded on the floor and ‘Mum’ or ‘Activist’ (and many others) used instead. Team members said they are not defined by their disability.

By the end of the session, the students and H Team were working together to develop an assessment tool that would equip professionals to phrase questions in different ways and encourage them to consider individuals holistically, particularly including their mental health. Social prescribing and making community connections may be things not previously considered for example.

“We got great feedback,” Sam said. “The students loved the session – having the H Team there to talk to them and give them advice was better than any pen exercise! It was learning through a first-hand experience that they will always remember.”

H Team sessions like this continue on a regular basis throughout the year and the H Team is always looking for new members to bring diversity and knowledge to their group.

If this could be you or someone you know, please call Sam on 02476 631040 extension 112 or email skeoghcollins@grapevinecovandwarks.org