Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Stephen’s campaign for the right to love

Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities.  This month we feature Stephen Haywood, an inspirational individual who won an award for advocacy, policy and the media in the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.

“I was so shocked to hear that I was on the Leaders’ List. I feel happy and proud that other people think I’m doing a good job. I’ve been sticking up for people like me to have relationships for a long time. Thank you for taking me seriously.” These are the words of Stephen Haywood, Learning Disability and Autism Leader in the Michael Ludlam Award for Advocacy, Policy and the Media.

Stephen has been campaigning for people with learning disabilities to be supported to find healthy, loving relationships for over 20 years now.

After a marriage and subsequent divorce without any support, he experienced the pain of long term loneliness. He is now in a happy relationship and has paved the way for more people to find love…

After his divorce, Stephen wanted what many do: companionship. Sometimes his search for closeness led him to be vulnerable and the subject of safeguarding concerns.

He says that during this time all he wanted was a girlfriend and he recognised that many of his friends felt the same.

His difficult experiences have taught him that people need appropriate support and training in order to have safe and healthy relationships…

So he was a main contributor and consultant to the Lancashire campaign to get the CQC to write guidance on Relationships and Sexuality for providers.

He was also instrumental to the development of the U-Night Group’s ‘Y be Shy’ training programme for staff and people who use services. Here he is Director and Co-Trainer.

He was also one of the first people to join Supported Loving, a national network set up to bring together people with an interest in learning disability and relationships.

And if this wasn’t enough, he pushed and advocated for the need of a dating and friendship agency in Lancashire. 6 years ago he helped write a successful Lottery bid. Thus ‘Meet-n-match’ was born.

The happy ending to Stephen’s story? Meet-n-Match was able to find Stephen a partner who he has been with for the last 3 years!

Dorothy Owen, fellow Director of the U-Night Group commented:

“Sex and Relationships are really hard subjects for people to talk about.

“It can be embarrassing and challenging, but Stephen has managed to overcome his shyness about this, because he strongly believes in the need to overcome the barriers experienced by people with a learning disability to relationships. He is a tremendous role model and inspiration for others. He has taught me more about compassion than any training course or academic books ever could.”

Edel Harris





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