Friday, 20 April 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (though not on its website).

Coverage of event was disappointing
Catching up with back issues of the Mercury after the Easter break, I was looking forward to reading some good coverage of the recent Choice Unlimited event at Leicester Tigers on Thursday 5 April.
Imagine my disappointment, then, to see the short article, “Ex-tigers hero roars approval for fair” (Mercury, April 7). There are several aspects of the piece that are disappointing: it was unclear what it was all about, but mostly credit was not given where it’s due.
It was reported that Choice Unlimited had the support of Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Voluntary Action LeicesterShire.
That’s true and they all contributed to preparations and to the success on the day itself, helping showcase products, services, information and guidance available to disabled people and their carers. But Choice Unlimited didn’t spring fully-formed out of thin air.
Someone had to come up with the idea, get it off the ground, enlist support, gather momentum and bring it all to a successful conclusion. And that “someone” was the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP).
REDP is a collective of Voluntary and Community Sector organisations working together to promote equality and celebrate diversity.
At its core are four Leicester organisations with a track record of collaborating across different equalities for as long as ten years now. Our influence and engagement has extended in the past few years to embrace the whole East Midlands . The four city-based founder members of REDP are Leicester Council of Faiths; Leicester and Leicestershire Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre; The Race Equality Centre and Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (which took the lead role in Choice Unlimited).
The coverage failed to mention the ground-breaking nature of Choice Unlimited (it was the first of its kind anywhere in the East Midlands) nor was there any indication of the tremendous success of the event. More than 160 exhibitors participated and an estimated 2,500-3,000 service users came through the door – every one of them a potential customer in this new era of personal budgets for care services and products.
REDP is already in advanced discussions to present Choice Unlimited in other parts of the East Midlands. We’d still like it to be known that Leicester was the birthplace of this trail-blazing first presentation.
You might wonder why this matters, two weeks after the event and ten days after the Mercury’s coverage. Choice Unlimited signalled the birth of a new way of doing things for disabled people in the city, county and Rutland – kicking off a new era of choice and control. And at REDP our phone lines and inboxes are still red hot with those keen for information and asking when we’ll be doing it again. And they show no sign of cooling down!
George M Ballentyne

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