Mencap refreshed its vision this week after 60 years of supporting people with learning disabilities. A manifesto, Making Rights a Reality, places equality for people with learning disabilities at the top of a new list of priorities.
These aims are sympathetic to the policy ambitions laid out in the white paper Valuing People Now. While the government is mulling over the consultation feedback, its focus is going to be on implementing supportive policies that already largely exist. Rigorous targets and more accountable service provision are expected.
Empowerment of people with learning disabilities also lies at the heart of Mencap’s relaunch, with the charity trying to update the perception that it represents the parental voice. It should have also dispensed with its outdated name but perhaps the risk to its identity was too high.
Some might think this semantics, but the use of language has been part of the problem. One of the reasons learning disability remains a poor relation among client groups is because it is poorly understood. Mencap research this week suggests that hasn’t changed. Even MPs struggled to give accurate examples of a learning disability.
Where there’s ignorance, there’s neglect, exclusion and abuse. Policies and services might be headed in the right direction but there’s little to suggest that our society is becoming any more inclusive.
For people to truly lead ordinary lives in the community, Valuing People Now will need to be supported by a sustained campaign of awareness – otherwise we’ll still be discussing the problems in another 60 years.
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This article appears in the 24 April issue under the headline “Mencap maps ignorance”