INNOVATIONS IN EDUCATING COMMUNITIES ABOUT LEARNING
Edited by Roy McConkey.
Lisieux Hall in association with the Mental Health
ISBN 1 870335 14 7
Twenty years ago the conventional wisdom was that community care
was a question of geography. Community living meant moving people
out of institutions into ordinary houses on ordinary streets.
Now we know that it is not as simple as that. We know about
social isolation and abuse and victimisation in the communities
where people live.
Belatedly we have come to recognise that the answer may lie less
in educating people with learning difficulties than in helping the
communities in which they live to be more inclusive.
But who knows how to set about this mythic task? Well, Roy
McConkey for one, with his long track record in this area.
In this latest volume he presents the fruits of three years work
in Scotland: a series of workshops, local surveys and meetings to
unpack the complex practicalities of ensuring better community
Section one reviews the evidence. Those people who have had the
most contact with people with learning difficulties have the fewest
concerns about them as neighbours, or, indeed employees.
People’s biggest worries are what to do if someone has unclear
speech or an epileptic fit, so there are ideas about how to handle
these, as well as general tips on how to ensure social contact
Of course, communities are all different: hence section two,
which explores strategies for handling different target groups like
schools, employers, politicians, officials and churches.
The step-by-step suggestions for reassuring neighbours and
dealing with the media will be especially welcome to anyone
venturing into this tricky area.
Improving and educating communities is primarily about creating
opportunities for contact and relationships between those who have
been labelled disabled and those who have not.
The evidence is that familiarity with people with learning
difficulties breeds support, not contempt.
This practical, no-frills handbook is as good a place as any to
get started on building that support.
Linda Ward is senior research fellow, Norah Fry Research
Centre, University of Bristol and programme adviser (disability),
Joseph Rowntree Foundation.