People Matters

A project funded by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance’s Innovation competition funding is increasing awareness of cancer in people with learning disabilities and the front-line staff who work with them.

Leeds-based charity People Matters was successful in applying for funding for the project to offer the opportunity for vulnerable people, such as those with learning disabilities, to be better aware of when to access cancer treatment services and to have the confidence to do so.

Photo 2.jpgThe three-month initiative, from January to March 2024, involved:

  • 17 social care support workers receiving specialist training
  • The curation and development of accessible cancer prevention resources for common cancers including breast, prostate and bowel
  • Support sessions of up to three hours for 24 people with learning disabilities and autistic people to access information, learn how to be self-aware of signs of cancer, and gain confidence in accessing health care professionals

The project succeeding in increasing awareness of things that can help to prevent cancer; the symptoms of different cancers and how to check for them and reasonable adjustments

A ‘padlet’ of curated accessible resources have also been created for use by staff, people with learning disabilities and external organisations.

People Matters is a charity that supports people with learning disabilities, autistic people and people with other hidden disabilities to become more independent and live fulfilling lives in the way they want to.

Leah Baguley-Cork, Director of Operations at People Matters, said: “The impact of the project has been much larger than we expected, with all members increasing their knowledge about cancer symptoms, cancer prevention, reasonable adjustments, and what to do if they’re worried about their health.

Members averaged a 4.58 rating out of 5 with how satisfied they were with the project which is fantastic considering its short-term nature and that the topic can be challenging to discuss.

“We have had difficulties previously discussing this topic with members, and, in particular, encouraging our members to attend cancer screenings such as a smear test, so this rating really shows what a difference the project has made.

It’s also been useful long term as we now have accessible resources that we can use in the future for both our members and staff, as well as people external to the organisation. We’re very thankful for the funding provided and feel it has achieved a lot in a short time and the results will be lasting.”

Jason Pawluk, Programme Director at the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, said: “Cancer is a leading, underlying cause of death amongst people with learning disabilities and it can be very difficult for someone with a learning disability to find suitable information about cancer.

“It can also be challenging for people with learning disabilities to take part in cancer screening.

“However, it is so important for people to understand these important health messages, to recognise the signs and symptoms of common cancers, to feel confident in seeking help and to be aware of special arrangements that can be made to make them feel more comfortable during appointments and screening.

“Projects like this one are crucial as they not only help to reduce health inequalities, but also provide a valuable resource of information that anyone who needs it can access.”