Sixty Second Interview

Sixty Second Interview with Rob Greig

By Maria Ahmed

Rob Greig, national director of learning difficulties, currently splits his time between being the director of the Valuing People Support Team, and being a learning difficulties “tsar.” Greig, Rob HPFrom April next year, he will step down from his directorship of the Valuing People Support team and become a full-time learning difficulties tsar. He will work alongside a co-tsar who will be a person with learning difficulties.

Your new role is going to put you on a par with other government tsars like the mental health tsar Louis Appleby. What changes do you hope to bring about?

A continuation of the work we have been doing for the last four years. However, the changed role will give me greater time and scope to work at a political and inter-governmental level than was possible before. I therefore hope to increase the extent to which learning disabled people, their needs and wishes, are considered and included in the development of policy across all of government.

You will work with the first service user “tsar” social care has ever had. How did the creation of this role come about, and what impact do think the person appointed in this role will have?

Valuing People is committed to including learning disabled people in everything that we do that affects their lives – so the minister and I both felt that this should apply to the most senior post in the Department of Health that is specifically concerned with the lives of people with learning disabilities.
I hope that this person will have two main impacts. Firstly by modelling the inclusion of learning disabled people at the most senior level it will encourage many more organisations to provide paid employment to people with learning difficulties. Secondly, I am sure that there will be many occasions whereby a learning disabled person ‘telling it like it is’ to people in Government and elsewhere will have an impact that I could not possibly hope to achieve.

The management of the Valuing People support team is going to be devolved into regional teams within the Care Services Improvement Partnership. How would you like to see the implementation of Valuing People taken forward?

CSIP has committed itself to retaining the VPST as an entity and continuing the work we have started in the last three and a half years. On one hand, I would therefore expect much to continue in the way that it has. There is a widespread recognition that what has been achieved across the country since 2001 is very impressive – especially given the limited additional resources available and Valuing People’s comparatively low profile within the wider scheme of government priorities.  However, there is much more to be achieved, and I hope that by working on a cross-client group basis on issues like housing, education, ethnicity and employment, it will be possible to make even greater strides over the next five years.

Recent reports by the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association have warned local authorities may not be able to maintain funding for learning difficulties services because of budgetary pressures. The ADSS report said that while social services spending had risen to keep up with demand for learning difficulties services, NHS funding had not. How should the problem of resources be tackled?

The two most important conclusions of the ADSS report were, firstly that spending overall has not kept up with demand. There is particularly a need to recognise, both locally and nationally, that the quite correct decision to invest in medical technology that allows very disabled babies to survive at birth, brings with it a knock-on effect in terms of the very substantial costs in supporting those babies to lead good quality lives as adults in later years. Secondly, the ADSS report points out that the other main driver of increased costs is a continuing dependence on traditional residential and nursing home services. The way forward is through individualised services and supports that provide much better outcomes for no more money.

The Healthcare Commission has just closed a privately-run adolescent unit for people with learning difficulties because staff had not received adequate training. What concerns do you have about the standards of independently-run learning difficulty services?

I don’t think there is any particular reason to believe that an independent or private sector service is any more or less likely to be poor quality than something run by a local authority, NHS or voluntary sector organisation. The key issue is not the form of ownership, but the design of the service (size, location etc), the skills of the staff, and the management culture adopted by the organisation (i.e. the whole Valuing People culture of empowerment and self-determination).

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