Speak Out Council


A voice for people in Cambridgeshire who have a learning disability or are on the autistic spectrum.

What does Speak Out Council do?

  • acts as a voice for people aged 14 or above with a learning disability or who are on the autistic spectrum
  • runs consultations and drop ins to give people a say on all sorts of issues, and influence decisions
  • talks to professionals and organisations who can make a difference to these issues
  • runs Speak Out Days to give people who live in, or use services in Cambridgeshire, an opportunity to come together with these professionals and organisations

We are for anyone in Cambridgeshire who is aged 14 or above, and who has a learning disability, autism or both. 

We work closely with the Learning Disability Partnership Board for Cambridgeshire, to make sure what is important to you is at the heart of their work.

We talk to people from the Cambridge County Council, the local Clinical Commissioning Group, sporting organisations, and service providers, including transport and highways.

How do I get involved?

Attend a Speak Out Day

Join the Speak Out Council leaders, other people with a learning disability or autism, their carers and family, professionals, referrers and providers to see what we have been doing and how you can get involved and have your say.

As we still can’t meet in person, our Speak Out Days take place on Microsoft Teams. You do not need to have any special apps or equipment to join us. You just need to let us have an email address so that we can send you an invite (you do not need any special software or to download any apps). We can also send easy-read joining instructions. If you want to join us but do not have internet access, we can make arrangements for joining by phone. Or we can arrange to send you our report by post if you’d prefer.

Our next Speak Out Day will be Friday 4 December, 10.30am-12.30pm on Microsoft Teams.

To find out about the next meeting, email speakoutcouncil@voiceability.org or call us on 07867 002124.

Sign up to our mailing list and we’ll email you whenever a new date is announced. 

Join a virtual drop in - or contact us anytime

Due to the current coronavirus situation, we will not be holding face to face drop ins, but you can still Speak Out.

On our drop in days, we will be live on Facebook and Twitter, checking our email, and available at the end of the phone on 0786 700 2124. 

We will publish our next drop-in dates soon. 

But if you can’t make one of our dates, we are all still working for you, so just get in touch any time if you’d like us to help raise any issues you are experiencing in your life at the moment. By talking to professionals and organisations we can help make a difference.

Our consultations

The Speak Out Council carries out four consultations each year. Each one focusses on a subject that people with a learning disability and/​or autism have told us is important in their lives.

Take part in our health consultation

We want to know a bit about your health and the support you get with it. This might be things like the support you get to stay healthy, it might be about people who help you, or things you do, or equipment you use. Please tell us about good and bad experiences you have had.

We plan to share the results from this survey with Cambridgeshire County Council, Healthwatch and other professional bodies who might be able to change things. But we will not share any information about individual people, or tell anyone who said what. 

Results of our coronavirus consultation

During April-June 2020 we chose to ask people about how they were managing during the coronavirus lockdown.

Our latest Speak Out Day: all about communication

At the latest Speak Out day on 11 September 2020, we shared some videos about communication, which you can view on our Facebook page.

The transport film mentions autism cards which some people might find useful when travelling. More info about these and face cover exemption cards can be found here.

We have shared Meldreth Manor’s personalised COVID-19 messages, but we have also found these Mencap guides. Most of them are accessible and in easy read format which you might find useful.

Safe Places scheme

The Speak Out Council in partnership with Cambridgeshire Constabulary runs the Safe Places scheme across Cambridgeshire, where local businesses and shops offer temporary refuge to vulnerable people in need. The national website is https://www.safeplaces.org.uk/ or free App directs you to the nearest open Safe Place.

Businesses also display stickers in their windows to show they are part of the scheme and a safe place for anyone feeling threatened or anxious.

A person needing help shows their stay safe card to a member of staff who will help them call the emergency contact on the card – or the local police or safeguarding service. The card tells people exactly what to do to help the person. This includes their name, the contact details of the person they need to get in touch with, and what to do if you cannot get hold of them.

The Speak Out Council is always looking for volunteers to help find good businesses and shops to become part of the scheme, and to keep in touch to make sure the scheme is working well. We’d also love to hear from organisations who’d like to become a safe place. 

The website has lots of really good free resources about keeping safe, hate crime and mate crime. Anyone in Cambridgeshire can use this by registering for a free account.

What should a good social care assessment look like?

The Speak Out Council worked with Cambridgeshire County Council to produce this video which explains what you should expect from a good social care assessment - and the telltale signs of a bad assessment!

Speak Out Leader stories

He takes huge pride in his work. One of his favourite sayings is, We’ve done that job”.

Russell’s support worker
Russell’s Story

Russell likes to talk with people. It’s his favourite thing. He also likes meeting people, knowing what is happening next and having something to do. Working on VoiceAbility’s Speak Out Council (SOC) is perfect for him.

Russell is 35 and has profound and multiple learning disabilities. He also has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is a big Saracens fan.

He has been working with VoiceAbility in a variety of roles for eight years now, and is extremely successful at challenging the assumptions of what people with high support needs are capable of and want to achieve.

As part of the SOC, Russell worked to improve a traffic crossing in Hitchin. He made a video and wrote a letter which he shared with a local councillor who visited him personally. The improvements Russell helped make benefitted both Russell and his community immensely.

Next Russell led a project to test local public houses for accessibility, both in terms of physical accessibility and the way in which they could provide an atmosphere where people with high support needs could feel comfortable.

He has led access walks, which has helped to highlight problems with footpaths across the county and has resulted in the County Council making several improvements to broken paving slabs and curbs.

He has even chaired a meeting of the Learning Disability Partnership Board.

James Sheard, who acted as Russell’s support worker for many years before coming to work for VoiceAbility, said: 

I have seen a marked difference in Russell in the years since he started working with VoiceAbility. He has improved concentration and comprehension of his job role. He has increased confidence and takes huge pride in his work. One of his favourite sayings is, We’ve done that job”. What helps him is the structure of the job and the fact that we plan things out months in advance.”