My Practice

Through academic study I have had my eyes opened to the needs of people from ethnic minorities and how to meet them.

I manage a day service for 120 people, yet only four are people from an ethnic minority group. I am conscious of whether the service we provide is adequate, especially as one person and his family do not use English as their first language.

The white paper Valuing People recognised that people with learning difficulties from ethnic minorities receive a poor deal from services. The government  now expects all agencies to improve their practice to fulfil the objectives of the NHS plan and the legal obligations set out in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

With this in mind and having just completed a part-time masters degree in learning disability studies at the University of Birmingham, I have decided to research whether day care services for people with learning difficulties meet the needs of people from ethnic minorities.

I plan to use some of the information found in Learning Difficulties and Ethnicity: A Framework for Action written by the Valuing People Support Team; hold focus groups with existing service users; interview their parents and carers; and send out a staff questionnaire to seek their knowledge of meeting the needs of individuals from ethnic minority groups.

From reading the literature, my initial concerns were confirmed about the inaccessibility of our day service for ethnic minorities. For example, all staff are white and exclusively English-speaking and we are limited in food choices, which is proven by one person bringing his own lunch daily.

I was relieved to meet the local authority’s race equality officer and the service development manger for inclusion. From our initial discussions, I found out that there was something I could do to start to improve my own service without waiting to complete my research. I discovered a development worker who could speak Punjabi and English, and requested some simple translations of words for us to use in the day service.

I had one person’s timetable translated using pictures and words with great success. His family were pleased with what we were doing, but were concerned whether or not we were competent in the pronunciation of the words. I took this back to the inclusion officer and the development worker, and we are looking into putting the words on a tape or a DVD for staff to refer to as necessary.

Nichola Edge manages a day service in Staffordshire for people with learning difficulties

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