Hello, my name is Leeanne, and I am a care experienced young person who happens to be someone with a Learning Disability. I am an RSA Fellow within The Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and I am also an author. I would like to write this article for The Promise Scotland for Learning Disability Week 2023. Learning Disability Week happens once a year in May and normally has a theme. This year’s Learning Disability Week is based on Leadership – Lead For Change!
I have been involved with lots of projects with The Scottish Commission For People With Learning Disabilities (SCLD). For example, during the pandemic, I took part in a project with Glasgow University to find out more about people with Learning Disabilities’ experiences of COVID-19. I have also been involved with projects around Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights. I even helped build an impressive app called Human Rights Town App. At the moment, I am involved in helping the Scottish Government to help Girls and Women to overcome and help people in the future who have been through Abuse and Gender-Based Violence called VAWG strategic funding for Scotland.
I think what this shows is that anyone can be a leader in their lives. I will tell you what leadership means to me. I did not realise I was a leader until someone asked me recently if I saw myself as one. I began to think about what a leader is and what a leader might take in this role. Truth be told, I did not see myself as one until I thought about all the things I do in life. First of all, I have always supported people since I have been young. When I became of age after experiencing gender-based violence and abuse and after being supported by friends of my birth family; at nineteen I became independent.
I knew I wanted to share my experiences in the hope I could help people in the best possible way and maybe do things a little bit differently. This gave me insight into the control I have over my story, and I feel good about helping others. I think being a Leader can change things for the better!
There are always going to be positive and negative leadership skills, someone can treat someone unfairly and another not understanding and help others. I think it is not always about the positive leadership skills which I know I have. There is also the downside, and we need to talk about negative Leadership skills too. Throughout life, I have experienced both positive and negative Leadership skills.
I think mixed leadership can create lots of problems in the care system. It starts off with communication which is often lacking. It is extremely difficult to access appropriate role models when you are faced with lots of uncertainty. When you start to think about the promise and in particular when you are care experienced and have a Learning Disability at the same time, you have to question yourself a lot more, and it is even harder to access a good Leadership role model.
But… with the right support, people can go on to achieve things. For example, I found Leadership by writing a book and using my lived experiences of both care and Learning Disability. When other people like myself see empowering examples of Leadership like this, they will be inspired to break the mould and develop a stronger voice. Change is possible through the right kind of leadership. I want to focus on telling the story of what I have achieved. Because with better leadership and the right kind of support, each and every child in Scotland, including those with learning disabilities and that are care experienced can succeed.
About the author
Leeanne Clark is an RSA Fellow and writer. She is care experienced and was a former member of the Stigma group of Scotland's Independent Care Review.