A CHARITY which helps people with learning difficulties has invited councillors to attend a training course to help them understand the lives of their members.

It follows the comments allegedly made by Swindon Mayor Nick Martin last year, and members of the Swindon Advocacy Movement has felt following debates have shown a lack of understanding.

The charity wrote an open letter to council leader David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) welcoming all councillors to take part in their Walk In My Shoes programme.

Martin Kelly, a self advocacy co-ordinator, at the charity said the gesture had not been made as a direct result of the comments but because of a perceived misunderstanding of certain issues.

He said: “This was not aimed at anyone in particular.

“Some of our members attended the council meeting in December and left feeling some people did not fully understand their rights.

“There was certainly nothing malicious but some things suggested an outdated point of view.”

The mayor could not say whether he would be attending or not but Martin said he would be welcome to come along.

“Of course he is welcome to come along and he will be shown no prejudice,” he said.

“This training is delivered by people with learning disabilities and increases awareness and understanding of the rights and needs of people with learning disabilities.”

Coun Renard confirmed he would be attending the meeting and believed that, regardless of the circumstances, training of this nature was always helpful.

He said: “I received the letter a few weeks ago and am happy to be able to accept any offer of training for members.

“As a council we run a lot of training events on a variety of subjects which are always helpful.

“I will be encouraging other members to take part.

“I used to be the member for adult services so I am fully aware of all the fantastic work SAM do.

“For many members this is not something they would necessarily come across so training is helpful.”

The leader of the Labour Group, Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) agreed with the importance of the course and will be attending.

He said: “I unequivocally support this learning disabilities training session taking place for councillors, particularly as it will be led by adults with learning disabilities.

“While I am in no doubt the vast majority of councillors have the utmost respect for people with learning disabilities, with the mayor’s recent alleged comments being well documented it seems that we do not all have the right attitude towards people with learning disabilities.

“That is why this training session will be very important and I hope it will send a message to people with learning disabilities that all aspects of Swindon Council support them.”