Commitment needed

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
welcomes the white paper Valuing People. But we share Mencap’s concern that the
white paper may not improve the lives of those with profound difficulties and
their families, unless particular attention is paid to their needs (News
Analysis, 22 November).

For adults the principles of choice, independence, inclusion
and rights can only become a reality if there are sufficient human resources to
provide the necessary support. This was demonstrated in our report, Everyday
Lives, Everyday Choices (2000). Building relationships, establishing ways of
communicating and advocacy were all crucial in listening to the wishes of those
with profound learning difficulties and creating opportunities to lead a fuller

One of the most shocking findings was how little importance
was attached to supporting friendships, described as a "taboo
subject" by a project leader. What must it be like for a young person with
profound learning difficulties to leave school where all social life is likely
to have occurred, often with little chance of ever seeing friends again, unless
someone else takes the initiative?

The findings of the Mencap report resonate with many of my
experiences as the parent of Peter, a young man who had profound learning
difficulties. I would echo the call for more support, particularly in times
like school holidays. Continuity in specialist provision was also important.
When we eventually saw a psychologist who was able to help with addressing
Peter’s frustrations, he moved on and was not replaced.

Above all, I wanted others to see Peter’s life as of equal
value with other young people, and had always believed that he should be able
to lead a full life on leaving school, taking up continuing education for example,
and if he became ill he should be treated like any other teenager.

Great commitment is needed from those implementing the white
paper to ensure that the particular needs of those with profound learning
difficulties, whether adults or children, are not overlooked.

Hazel Morgan
Head, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

Society did not consult

Community Care has it right (Editorial Comment, 22
November), but Children’s Society chief executive Ian Sparks is completely
confused (Viewpoint, 6 December).

The Children’s Society made no effort whatsoever to inform
the National Assembly for Wales of their intention to pull out of our country.
The first my colleague Jane Hutt, minister for health and social services, knew
about the news was on the morning it was announced. Had we been consulted
earlier, who knows what might have been possible. Unfortunately in his haste to
cut their spending, Mr Sparks was not willing to explore alternatives.

Mr Sparks also alleges that the Welsh assembly turned down
applications for grant aid from the Children’s Society. I am not aware that the
Children’s Society has ever made any applications to the assembly. An
application for European funding under the Objective One programme was turned
down by the Wales European Funding Office because the society was not able to
demonstrate "additionality" as required by the European Commission.

Finally, Mr Sparks claims that advocacy services for
children are a statutory requirement in Wales. This is simply untrue. We have a
children’s commissioner with statutory powers to investigate and act as an
advocate for children and young people, but there is no statutory requirement
for either local authorities or the assembly to ensure the provision of
advocacy services for children in Wales. The assembly encourages the provision
of these services, the value of which was clearly demonstrated by Waterhouse,
but we do not require their provision.

Ann Jones
Welsh assembly member (Vale of Clwyd)

Importance of culture

The inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie has
highlighted the importance of fully establishing the impact of young people’s
cultural needs within the "child in need" assessment process (News,
page 6, 29 November). Lisa Arthurworrey, the social worker assigned to work
with Victoria, has admitted to making decisions based on generalised
assumptions about Caribbean families. She was unaware that Victoria had come
from the Ivory Coast.

Arthurworrey saw Victoria’s timidity as a cultural show of
respect. These stereotypical assumptions can be endemic in social care
agencies. The Bibini Centre has had first hand experience of the lack of
consideration of black young people’s cultural needs in our role as a provider
of services to black children and families.

We have seen at first hand the frequent marginalisation of
issues of race, religion and ethnicity, in the support and assessment of black
children. In fact it has been suggested to us by some professionals that
meeting young people’s needs within a placement or other service is effectively
a luxury, one which can only be considered when other assessed support needs
have been met.

Yoni Ejo
Chief executive
The Bibini Centre for Young People

Training role to continue

There will be more than six of the new sector skills
councils replacing the current national training organisations next spring,
although we don’t yet know the exact number (News, page 14, 29 November).

After your report was published, the Department for
Education and Skills said that no public sector related national training
organisation would be among the trailblazers. So that leaves Topss to make a
UK-wide bid for an ordinary sector skills council licence next spring, so we
can continue our role in modernising the social care workforce. We are
confident that we can meet the DfES licence requirements.

Kevin Thomas
Communications manager
Topss England

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