Learning disabilities/challenging behaviour services lag behind

Provision for people with both learning disabilities and challenging behaviour has “lagged behind” services for other groups, says the author of key guidance published 14 years ago.

Services were “dominated by reacting to crises and placement breakdowns” despite policies including the Valuing People white paper of 2001, Jim Mansell, who wrote guidance for professionals in 1993, told Community Care.

Mansell, who is professor of learning disability at Kent University, was speaking following the publication of his revised guidance on the client group by the Department of Health. In his report, Mansell called for improvements including round-the-clock emergency support for the 12,000 people with both learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

He raised concerns that people were being moved too often because of placement breakdowns when staff could not manage their behaviour. Many were supported out of area by councils, which added to the “dramatic rise” in spending on learning disability services. It was also “inexcusable” that councils failed to plan services for people in transition between children’s and adults’ services.

Mansell criticised commissioners who “typically purchased services on the basis of the lowest cost in the short-term, without considering long-term effects”.

Mansell, who is a commissioner for the Commission for Social Care Inspection, said: “Despite the progress that has been made for people with learning disabilities in general, there has been a failure to deliver the benefits to people who present a challenge to services.”

The Department of Heath said Mansell’s guidance was “not mandatory” and confirmed that no extra resources would be provided for its implementation.

Mansell told Community Care he believed changes could be achieved within existing resources but pointed to the importance of campaigning.


● Reduce use of residential special schools away from home.

● Emergency support for people with challenging behaviour available 24/7.

● Develop specialised and advanced staff training on challenging behaviour.

➔ Report from www.tinyurl.com/yukzv5

Related articles

Full interview with Jim Mansell

Essential information on learning disabilities

More information

Valuing People white paper

Community Care’s A Life Like Any Other campaign is calling for people with learning disabilities to be given the same chances in life as everyone else and to play a full part in the community.

Contact the author
Maria Ahmed

This article appeared in the 15 November issue under the headline “Services are lagging behind”


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