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I went to Glastonbury once, with four teenage children and high hopes of a good time. The experience was not for the fainthearted. I have been an avid festival goer and camper for many years so it’s not as though I’m a stranger to chemical loos and mud. It was just the sheer scale of the event, combined with the task of keeping the kids relatively risk-free, which threw me.
I once managed a service where we supported a young man whose enduring passion was dance music. One day, at a group meeting, he announced that he wanted to go clubbing. Immediately there were sharp intakes of breath, mumblings and paper shuffling. Then one of the younger staff members spoke up – she would be happy to go with him to the town at the weekend, where a friend of hers was hosting a dance party in a nightclub. More sucking of teeth from the rest of the staff ensued. My initial response was mild panic – was she serious?
Well actually she was serious; so much so that she approached me later and asked if I would help her draw up a risk assessment. I was impressed – she had up until now been skilled in her avoidance of all things paper – and we sat down and set to work. Gradually, other team members wandered in and added their thoughts, ranging from the obvious (seizures, fights, drunkenness) to the more alarming (drug busts, arrests, dubious women). By the end of the shift we had just about covered it. The young woman offered to contact the venue to scope things out, my deputy offered to accompany them on the trip in a nursing capacity, and before we knew it, they were disappearing off into the night.
Of course, they had a whale of a time, danced until late, arrived back noisily in a taxi at three a.m. (this had not been factored in to the risk assessment) and gave the night team a fright.
I am delighted to read of the organisation set up to enable people with learning disabilities to enjoy the life they choose, even if it does mean sweaty clubs, dirty loos and three o’clock bedtimes. Stay Up Late is a registered charity that helps pair people with volunteers to attend events that end after the majority of care workers have gone to bed. These ‘Gig Buddies’ are recruited across the country and the organisation’s website can provide information on how to hook up with like-minded people and get to events such as concerts, gigs and festivals.
After all, the right to party is enshrined in the pages of Valuing People, as well as the lyrics of The Beastie Boys.
Virginia Tyler, RNLD DipNHM MSc - QCS Expert Contributor on Learning Disabilities