Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities
Briefing for local advocacy groups and self-advocates
This easy read version of 'How can you help people have better days?' is avalable as a PDF below:
Briefing for local politicians and board members
This briefing contains information and suggestions about things that you could do to help ensure that good community-based daytime opportunities and support are achieved for people with learning disabilities in your local area. It has been designed as a quick read using short bullet points.
What is 'a good day’?
In national policy, people are described as having 'a good day’’ when they are:
- doing things that have a purpose and are meaningful for them
- doing things that most members of the community would be doing, in ordinary places that most members of the community would frequent
- doing things that are uniquely right for them, with support that meets their individual requirements
- meeting local people, developing friendships and connections and building a sense of belonging.
Why is an ordinary community life is important?
- National policy is about helping people with learning disabilities achieve good daily lives through using ordinary workplaces, leisure facilities, colleges, public transport, clubs, shops … whatever a community offers.
- Being involved with the local community leads to friendships and natural ways of getting support. It can make people less reliant on services.
- It gives a sense of belonging, and leads to people contributing to their community.
- The community is there for all - everyone has the right to use the facilities and opportunities on offer. It’s part of being a citizen.
- Going to day services in special buildings for people with learning disabilities is not an ordinary community life, and it creates barriers to achieving that goal.
Including people with high support needs
- Research has shown that so far, 'day service modernisation’ has not led to good, community-based daily lives for people who require high levels of support. They are being 'left behind’, mainly using special buildings.
- People who need a great deal of support to do things (because they have complex impairments or challenging behaviour) have the right to the same opportunities as everyone else.
- People who need a great deal of support benefit from having direct payments or an individual budget so they get the one-to-one support they need to do things.
- It is important to organise staff time so that people who need one-to-one support actually get it, otherwise they cannot take advantage of community opportunities
- It is also important to ensure that the community infrastructure - facilities, places, transport etc - is fit for people with higher support needs to use.
How you can help
As a councillor or board member there are a number of issues that may come your way in relation to 'day service modernisation’ or developing community-based daytime opportunities and support for people with learning disabilities. Four of the most important things to consider are highlighted below:
What people with learning disabilities want to do
Each person is different, so look for changes and developments that are based on individualised, person-centred planning that shows what each person wants and the support they need. People who have communication difficulties should have plans that have been developed with the involvement of people who know them really well.
What can be done to help families accept change
'Day service modernisation’ can be frightening for families. They have genuine concerns about how safe their relative will be in community places, how reliable the support will be if staff are community-based, and whether they themselves will get the same level of respite from caring that traditional day services have provided.
So, make sure that services are agreeing support plans with people’s families, and that the plans include contingency and risk management arrangements. Consider making a commitment to families that the hours of respite they receive will not be reduced without their prior agreement.
Don’t, though, pull back from implementing change. Day services need to be modernised. People with learning disabilities need to take their rightful place alongside everyone else as community members.
Managing and resourcing community-based developments
Building community-based opportunities and support services is hard to do while continuing to run centre-based day services. There are two options:
- a total change approach, in which services move out of existing facilities and become community-based at a particular point in time, freeing up money to fund more staff for community-based support
- a more gradual approach, in which new community-based support services are developed alongside existing centre-based services and people move to the new community-based opportunities and support over a planned period of time.
Whichever approach is taken, additional resources will be required - at the very least to support development work with community facilities, training staff for new community roles, individual person-centred planning, and to develop transport options.
Community-based day supports will become more cost-effective over time as people develop greater independence and use the natural support resources of the community, but the development period needs to be adequately resourced to achieve the longer term benefits. Of particular concern are the number of community-based day and employment projects with short-term funding. If they exist in your local area, consider what can be done so that they secure a sustainable funding base and can build for the future.
Buildings and infrastructure
One of the most important things you can do is support your commissioners and managers to develop community support services that do not use buildings run by learning disability or social care services. If people need places to meet encourage services to book rooms in ordinary community facilities. Help them to build partnerships with mainstream community providers - you probably have a wealth of local contacts and links, but you could also help those mainstream community providers to consider what they need to do to serve all members of the community - which includes people with learning disabilities whatever level of support they might need.
An accessible transport network is an important consideration, and facilities for personal care (changing places). The national Changing Places website has information on developing appropriate facilities for people with profound and multiple disabilities (see www.changing-places.org). The Disability Equality Duties might provide helpful leverage for change.
Perhaps it could prove helpful if your council or organisation adopted the social model of disability as a framework to guide operations. There is more information on all these suggestions in the guide.