People with learning difficulties from BME backgrounds lack support

Special Report

Over three-quarters of people with learning difficulties from black
and minority ethnic communities in Britain are struggling without
support, campaigners warn, following the publication of a critical
new report, reports Maria Ahmed.

The report by the Valuing People support team, submitted to care
services minister Liam Byrne, finds that under a quarter of

New Asset  
Report has been submitted to
          Liam Byrne

from BME communities are known to services.

It highlights “uneven” progress in implementing the
Framework for Action, guidance drawn up last year to ensure that
Valuing People objectives were being met for people with learning
difficulties from BME communities in learning disability
partnership boards.

“Not taken seriously”

In the report, partnership boards cite “obstacles” to
improving services including a lack of resources, poor information
on numbers and lack of staff time, but campaigners have slammed the
lack of progress.

Rob Grieg, director of the Valuing People support team says the
report shows that guidance on reaching BME communities is
“still being not taken seriously” in many parts of the

“What this report is saying is that people from BME
communities are not getting a fair deal, but there are no
acceptable reasons for partnership boards to neglect this area of
Valuing People. There needs to be a concerted attempt to make clear
local plans and strategies, which would not require extra

Cover up

Grieg is also concerned that only just over half of all partnership
boards sent responses for the report.

“This is a disappointing response rate given that it was a
carefully targeted survey conducted at the request of a government

Richard West, chair of the national advisory group on learning
disability and ethnicity, calls for partnership boards which are
not improving services for people from BME communities to be
“named and shamed”.

“The lack of services is not just because of a lack of
resources or staff time. I think this is just an excuse for what I
would call a cover-up for institutional racism. I want this to be

Struggling to cope

New Asset  
Grieg: Disappointing

The report finds that only 22 per cent of learning disability
partnership boards report using the Learning Disability Development
Fund for initiatives relating to race equality, despite government
encouragement to use it for this purpose.

It also finds that white people are over-represented in
services, while people from South Asian communities are the most

Ghazala Mir, senior research fellow at the centre for research
in primary care at University of Leeds, warns that the number of
South Asian people who do not access services could be “even
higher” than current estimates.

“Research has suggested that the prevalence of learning
difficulties in South Asians aged five to 32 could be up to three
times higher than in other communities, which would mean there may
be many more people out there who are not known to services,”
she says.

Mir, who was on the steering group for preparing the Framework
for Action last year, claims that people who are not known to
services are struggling to cope alone.

Lack of leadership

She cites “inappropriate” methods of engaging those
from BME communities as a factor why so many do not access

“The workforce makeup is not representative enough, and
while South Asian communities place high value on religious needs,
these are ignored by service providers,” she says.

Many services focus too heavily on addressing individual needs
without attempting to recognise the interdependent, collective
culture of family life in South Asian communities, according to

“Advocacy services which rely on self-referral can also
end up excluding people who would be more effectively engaged
through outreach work.”

The report also finds that only 10 per cent of partnership
boards report that all their strategies routinely consider people
from BME communities, while only nine per cent have dedicated
workers to maintain contacts with BME communities.

No examples of good practice relating to children from BME
communities were provided by the partnership boards which gave
responses for the report.

The report warns that improving services for people from BME
communities is “not a high priority” for many
partnership boards, resulting in a lack of “strategic”
leadership and action.

The report says: “Poor information, small numbers of
people from minority ethnic communities in the local area and a
lack of engagement with local minority ethnic communities seemed to
be given as reasons for not pursuing strategic action, rather than
as factors stimulating such action.”

Mir urged partnership boards to take full responsibility for the
needs of people with learning difficulties from BME

“Partnership boards must apply the same rules to everyone
and ensure there is a fair allocation of resources.”

Improving services for people with learning disabilities,
compiled by Chris Hatton, professor of psychology for Health
Research at Lancaster University from:

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