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'A brilliant role model' campaigner's delight at appointment of children's presenter with Down's Syndrome

by Donna Birrell
George Webster.jfif - Banner image

Campaigners are welcoming the BBC's decision to appoint an actor with Down's Syndrome as a presenter on its children's TV channel CBeebies.

20-year-old actor George Webster will present the programme, CBeebies House, in a move that's hoped will inspire a whole new generation to think differently about the condition.

Lynn Murray is from the charity, 'Don't Screen Us Out' which campaigns for greater inclusion for people with Down's Syndrome. She also works with George on the National Down's Syndrome Policy Group and she gives her reaction to Premier about his new job:

"I'm absolutely delighted for George. He is exactly what you see on the screen, a bubbly enthusiastic person. He is well-mannered and all sorts of things. He will be delighted to have been chosen for this.
"And I think he'll be a brilliant role model for people. It's great that young people will see people with Down's Syndrome, so they've grown up with the idea that people like George are included.

"Obviously, when children are watching it, parents see it as well. And I think that's good for mothers who might have other children, or they might have kids who are going to school with someone with Down's Syndrome. So I think it's all around giving awareness for everyone."

Lynn Murray says however that while the media is making good strides in becoming more inclusive, other sectors such as education, still have some way to go:

"I think in the media we're seeing really good progress. And I would say in places like schools and in workplaces, education, that's somewhere we need to see more progress. But hopefully, maybe this will help people in education and in the workplace to be less fearful.

"I think there's not enough support perhaps in mainstream schools and for teachers and so they don't maybe know how to deal with the issues that do arise. I think we need more training about Down's Syndrome and what it means and about learning disability and the things that might stem from that. So I think it's a kind of fear of the unknown."

Around 700 people a year are born with Down's Syndrome and Lynn says old-fashioned stereotypes can still exist:

"A lot of people don't meet someone with Down's Syndrome. So there is perhaps a kind of stereotype which dates back to sort of institutionalisation and things like that. So we really need to smash that stereotype and I think inclusion of people like George is going to help do that.

"Not everybody is going to be on TV. But it's good for people to be aspirational about their child because they might still hear medical attitudes that say, 'your child might not achieve very much they might not walk, they might not…….' And that affects the parents, because someone who's qualified has taught them what their child might not do. And so that affects them. 

"We need to start kicking those doors open. But hopefully these things will start to change."

Actor Sally Phillips, whose son Olly has Down's Syndrome, was among many to tweet their delight at George's appointment :
She tweeted: "Oh CBeebies I COULD NOT LOVE YOU MORE. This means so much to us and ISN'T GEORGE AMAZING!!"


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