Children with intellectual disabilities are one of the groups that suffer the greatest disadvantage in society. That is why the World Health Organisation, in partnership with people with disabilities and NGOs across Europe, including Lumos, developed the Declaration 'Better Health, Better Lives: children and young people with intellectual disabilities and their families'.
Signed by 53 European countries, this Declaration sets out ten priorities which, if put into practice, would contribute to the full inclusion in society of all children with intellectual disabilities across the European region.
However, in spite of this commitment to protect the rights of children with intellectual disabilities, children’s quality of life will not change unless the Declaration is implemented in practice.
That’s why Lumos created the Turning Words into Action project.
This ambitious project ran 2011- 2013 and brought together children and young people with intellectual disabilities, their parents, policy makers and health and educational professionals in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Serbia with the aim of bringing the ‘Better Health Better Lives’ Declaration to life through meaningful and effective child participation activities and outcomes.
The project, funded by the European Commission Social Innovation Fund, supported young people to become self-advocates and started the process of giving them the opportunity to influence and advise on how to implement the declaration in their own countries. It also, for the first time, provides these young people with the opportunity, to interact with policy makers and discuss issues around their disabilities as equal partners. In this way, the goal of the project was to ensure that the Declaration achieves real impact by demonstrating how it can be used to improve governments’ and societies’ approaches to caring for children with intellectual disabilities, providing a template for other countries to follow.
As a result of the project we supported:
- Direct empowerment of the children and young people through participation in the project;
- Preliminary influence upon policy and practices Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Serbia with action taken towards implementation of the Better Health Better Lives Declaration; and
- Young people, parents, professionals and politicians to find new ways of working, giving them positive experiences of working together to build a more equal society
The following Turning Words into Action publications are available in our Research section of our website:
The Turning Words into Action Project was implemented in three countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Serbia. A group of children and young people with intellectual disabilities, some of whom lived in residential institutions, came together for a series of activities throughout the project.
National working groups were formed in each of the three countries, which included policy makers from various levels of government, service providers, NGOs and children with intellectual disabilities and their families. Through a series of local meetings in each country and two transnational meetings, the working groups were supported to develop an action plan for reform of the social protection and social inclusion systems for children with intellectual disabilities.
Under the project young self-advocates also participated in Steering Committee meetings in London where they could share experiences and learn from each other. Child participation is one of the core values of Lumos, and is of vital importance to ensuring that work with disadvantaged children is based on and truly meets their needs. It is also an essential element of their growth and development.
One of the self-advocates from Serbia involved in the project, shared this: “One of my dreams for the future has just been realised by being part of this project. I want us to work together to stop bad things in the world – trafficking of women and children, abuse in families, homelessness. I want to see day centres for children with disabilities and for children to be taken out of institutions.”
UK-based human rights organisation CHANGE was involved in the project by supporting the self-advocates, providing them with easy-read accessible information and facilitating better communication between them, the national working groups and the Steering Committee.
Shaun Webster, a self-advocate trainer, speaker and campaigner for CHANGE, says about the project:
“Turning Words into Action is a really exciting project. Many children with learning disabilities have never been asked before what they think about their lives and what support they might want to help them reach their goals.”
“One of my dreams for the future has just been realised by being part of this project. I want us to work together to stop bad things in the world – trafficking of women and children, abuse in families, homelessness. I want to see day centres for children with disabilities and for children to be taken out of institutions.”
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