The British government’s Valuing People white paper is changing the
lives of people with learning difficulties for the better, said
members of the national forum charged with monitoring its
Disability rights commissioner Eve Rank-Petruzziello said setting
up a forum of people with learning difficulties and allowing it to
send a representative to the government’s learning difficulty task
force showed that learning difficulties were now firmly on the
She told delegates that forum members had spoken to hundreds of
people with learning difficulties across the country in order to
find out what action they wanted to see.
Access to justice and being able to speak in courts, the need for
direct payments, the lack of engaging day centres and activities,
and problems with work were all discussed.
Rank-Petruzziello said that work opportunities had increased as had
access to direct payments.
Joan Scott, co-chairperson of the forum and a member of Norfolk
People First, told the conference that the £1.3m set aside by
the government for citizens’ advocacy or self-advocacy was not made
fully available until after representations by the forum. She added
that although it might seem a lot of money, it wasn’t. “We have to
keep pushing for lots more,” she said.
Forum members have also insisted on easy-read government papers and
have pushed for more clarity in the way the Department of Health
publishes spending figures.
Sabrina Bartram, a member of the forum, added that she and her
colleagues were involved in the whole process.
“This means self-advocates will be more in control,” she said.