Editorial Comment: Let’s help fulfil potential

People with learning disabilities have always been one of the most marginalised groups in society. And even though we have thankfully almost seen the back of the old long stay hospitals, the institutional model of care lives on. It may be in the form of shiny new private hospitals or group homes which amount to little more than mini-institutions in the community.

This is the backdrop to the launch of our new campaign this week.We’ve called it A Life Like Any Other because we believe that people with learning disabilities are missing out on things that the rest of us take for granted. Too many are denied the chance to have a place of their own, a job or join in mainstream activities to play a full part in the community.

Almost 1200 people with learning disabilities responded to our campaign survey and the message from many of them was that they desperately want to be more independent but they are being held back. A majority didn’t have a home of their own or a job, but many wanted both. The lack of a social life was a major bugbear and when asked what one thing would make their lives better, most said ‘more support’.

Two thirds without a job said they would like to work, and more part-time opportunities, combined with more support to take part in other activities, came across loud and clear as urgently needed.

The quality of support that many receive was also highlighted as a real issue. This surely stems from the drive to keep down costs which all too often means that people are stuck in a group home with poorly paid care staff who have inadequate training in dealing with this client group and little or no clue as to how to help them reach their full potential. In some parts of the country things are not much better in supported living, which doesn’t always live up to its name.

But maybe, just maybe, things are starting to change. The announcement by care services minister Ivan Lewis that he wants to re-energise Valuing People is very welcome news. And alongside the launch of our A Life Like Any Other campaign, ten organisations are joining forces to form the new Learning Disability Co-alition. It feels like a momentum may be building so please register your support on www.communitycare.co.uk and join with us to lobby for a decent quality of life for people with learning disabilities. It can’t happen without you.

Contact the author
 Janet Snell



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