Learning difficulty white paper ‘too lightweight’

The Learning Disability White Paper “lacks substance” and has
many weaknesses as well as strengths, sector experts told the

While the white paper’s values and intentions were widely
praised at Community Care Live, delegates expressed
concerns about how it would be implemented in practice and what
resources would be available.

Judith Westcott, regional manager of the disability charity the
Shaftesbury Society, praised the consultation carried out to
produce the paper, and the “sense of aspiration” and honesty
employed to address the problems, but questioned whether it had the
clout to realise its goals and actually achieve change.

“For me there’s not enough substance, it comes across as
lightweight and lacking the detail that you find in the more
weighty legislation around at the moment,” Westcott said. “If it
works it will be because of the other acts, not this one.”

Westcott said it was important to see the white paper, published
in March, in the context of the wider political agenda and to make
use of the neighbourhood renewal strategy action plan to access new
money in deprived areas for community initiatives aimed at
promoting social inclusion.

Weaknesses of the white paper highlighted included the lack of
detail on how proposed changes would be funded, how provider
organisations would be expected to participate in new partnerships,
and how all the other new strategies and acts would combine to meet
the white paper’s challenges.

The promise to revamp day-services by 2005 was undermined, she
said, by the performance indicators attached to the strategy which
“clearly identify cost savings to be made”.

She said:”I want to see day services overhauled. But I also know
that there aren’t cost savings to be made in the community.”

Richard Kramer, head of campaigns for learning difficulties
charity Mencap, welcomed the white paper’s key principles of civil
rights, independence, choice, and social inclusion.

But he warned: “We estimate that 25,000 people with learning
difficulties are not properly housed. The same number were living
with carers in 1999 as in 1969. We’ve got to give people with
learning difficulties the choice about where they live.”

Kramer said there also needed to be greater flexibility in the
range of housing provision on offer, and criticised the white paper
for implying that supported housing was the only option after the
closure of long-stay hospitals.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.