Added value needed

The four main points at the heart of Valuing People are rights,
independence, choice and inclusion.

A recent social services inspection of learning difficulties’
services found that the Valuing People policies were slowly
starting to make a difference. But as co-chairperson of the
National Forum of people with learning difficulties, I and my
colleagues are only too well aware that changes are not happening
fast enough. For example, for the past 30 years it’s been
government policy to close long-stay hospitals for people with
learning difficulties. But it didn’t happen for thousands of people
and so it was made a priority in Valuing People. All long-stay
hospitals in England are meant to close by April 2004. From our
work on the forum and reports from the support team to the task
force we know this isn’t going to happen in most cases. We really
need to sort this out.

Even where they do close, all too often people are put into group
homes, which are like mini-institutions, where they are no better
off. Why can’t we have our own place the same as everybody

Meanwhile, the National Forum’s work on the task force, which is
meant to make sure Valuing People happens, is coming to the end of
its first year. It feels really good that we have set most of the
agenda for the task force. For example, raising the issues of money
for advocacy services, the representation of people with learning
difficulties on the Care Standards Commission and cuts in health
and social care services for people with learning

Next year we want to make sure that priorities include stopping
bullying and harassment, getting long-term funding for advocacy and
sorting out problems over getting proper treatment in hospitals.

Another area I’m very concerned about is the continued
discrimination against people with learning difficulties. Just look
at the proposed Mental Health Bill where learning difficulties is
included in the definition of having a mental disorder. I’m worried
that people with learning difficulties don’t know about this
proposal as the bill hasn’t been made accessible. When they find
out that you could be locked up just because you have learning
difficulties there will be uproar. It’s all been done behind our
backs and goes against one of the main principles of Valuing
People: inclusion.

And many people with learning difficulties are also not considered
capable of receiving direct payments. The new guidance is even
suggesting there may be a different scheme for people with learning
difficulties. The law is meant to be giving control to people with
disabilities but it is excluding our whole group. Why should we be
treated differently? It’s discrimination.

Finally, I want to raise sex education or rather the lack of it for
people with learning difficulties. On the courses I run a lot
people hardly know the basics and that is why so many are sexually

All these points are in Valuing People but we need to ensure that
words are translated into action. People with learning difficulties
have waited a long long time for all this to happen. And too many
are still waiting.

– More details on the National Forum at

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