Religious communities often fail to meet the needs of people
with learning difficulties, an academic has told delegates at
Community Care Live Scotland, reports Ruth
Speaking at a session on spirituality, religion and learning
difficulties, Professor John Swinton of the University of Aberdeen
said that while many people with learning difficulties benefited
from friendship and acceptance during formal religious services, it
rarely extended into their daily lives.
Swinton said: “What people want are friendships that
extend beyond an hour or two on Sunday morning. But there is often
a feeling that people in those congregations have ‘done their
duty’ for the week.
“Lots of religious communities feel they are doing a good
job for people with learning difficulties – and in one sense
they are – but they are actually very limited in their
He also suggested it was relatively common for people with
learning difficulties to be struggling with unresolved grief 20 or
30 years after being bereaved.
He said both staff and families were unsure about how to deal
with service users’ emotions, and that there was sometimes an
“assumption that people with learning difficulties somehow
grieve differently from everyone else”.