By Brian Kelly and Patrick McGinley.
ISBN 1 8700335 27 9
Some years ago, as a member of a community learning difficulty
team, I sat down with a new GP interested in providing a better
service for disabled people in his practice. As my local authority
had a well run register I was shocked to find he had two
50-year-olds with learning difficulties on his list, both living in
the same street with older, ailing single mothers who were unknown
to social services or community health. One woman had never
received services; she had sat through secondary modern schooling
without anyone noticing she couldn’t read or write. The
second, with moderate learning difficulties, had attended a day
centre and then dropped out.
What was keeping these families afloat, apart from their
mothers’ indomitable spirit , was their attendance at and
involvement in church communities: one Roman Catholic, the other
Pentecostal. Working with the families, the GP and the churches,
the community learning difficulty team was able to prepare both
individuals positively for a life following the inevitable death of
As the new White Paper, Valuing People points out, one
of the major deficits facing people with learning difficulties in
modern Britain is the lack of positive friendships and networks.
The churches are one possible source of this personal validation we
all need, and this text is an honourable attempt to get to grips
with the concepts involved and the services which can be
The book is rather loosely edited, with some repetition and an
irritating plethora of nomenclature. Also some Christian
denominations might take exception to the phrase “the Church”, as
it is written very much from the Roman Catholic tradition. Lisieux
Publications is, however, to be congratulated on a series that
contains Linda Ward’s Innovations in Advocacy and
Empowerment and Roy McConkey’s Innovations in
Evaluating Services, both edited works.
Now that the Catholic bishops have launched their survey of
community care, this book should be required reading in dioceses
and parishes, with its chapters on access to the sacraments,
churches as communities, catechesis and pastoral care; with some
chapters on specific services such as L’Arche, on which
Father David Wilson writes a very moving reflection.
I was particularly delighted to read an account of Julia
Granger’s inspiring approach to bringing people together
across one diocese as I was personally able to witness that
community leadership at the time. As Roy McConkey points out,
religious communities do not have an unblemished record, but where
they do work as intended they can transform lives.
Peter Gilbert is an independent consultant in social and
health care and an adviser to the Conference of Catholic Bishops on