Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities

Foundation stones - Rights and inclusion

The Valuing People white paper emphasised the rights, independence, choice and inclusion of people with learning disabilities. These are all mirrored in the Social Model of Disability, a useful framework for identifying the tasks facing community services.

The Social Model works on the basis that we are all born equal. People who have physical, sensory or mental impairments become disabled because of the barriers and difficulties created by society. It is society that disables people.

Society disables people with impairments by preventing them from taking part in everyday life. It follows that if disabled people are to take their rightful place as full and equal citizens, the way society is organised must be changed.

Disabling barriers are created by things like:

Barriers can be:

Environmental Systematic Attitudinal

For example:

  • Lack of accessible public transport
  • No hoist at the swimming pool

For example:

  • Special, segregated provision
  • Poor planning with school leavers

For example:

  • 'She must be a tie.'
  • 'He'll never get a job'

It is important to acknowledge that some disabled people face additional barriers and difficulties because they are members of more than one minority group: people's race, age, sexual orientation and gender also affect their inclusion. There are a number of equality duties that now govern public services and it is important that providers of community day supports, and their staff, are familiar with them - not only because their own service has to comply but also because ordinary community facilities and services have to comply. Knowing the duties can be helpful when negotiating new opportunities and supports for people. See Disability Equality Duty and Gender Equality Duty.

The concept of independent living is central to the Social Model of Disability. It stresses that independence is about having control over your life, not about being able to do everything for yourself or living unsupported. The concept underpins the development of direct payments and individual budgets.

Key values of independent living

  • all human life is of value
  • everyone, whatever their impairment, is capable of making choices, with support if needed
  • disabled people have the right to exercise control over their lives
  • disabled people have the right to participate fully in society.

From 'Relentless optimism: creative commissioning for personalised care', Commission for Social Care Inspection (Sept 2006)

What are the implications for developing and delivering community day opportunities and support?

The Social Model of Disability and the concept of independent living underpin the drive in current policy towards self-directed support and ordinary life opportunities. It means that the way services are organised has to change!

The social model particularly challenges the way that most people with very high support needs are currently supported by day services. 'Having a good day' identified that the prevalent model of provision centres on having a special building that such people use. Most are getting left behind in terms of community-based opportunities and support. It's a situation that needs to be addressed, and it is one that requires people at all levels and in all roles to challenge the barriers beyond but also within social care services.

See Key task 9: Creating opportunities for all.

What are you doing?

... or what will you do, to make sure that:

  • managers and staff understand the social model of disability and what it means for their work, and your local council adopts the social model of disability?
  • your local public bodies are incorporating targets around people with learning disabilities in their Disability Equality Scheme?
  • people with learning disabilities, their families and service staff are supported and confident to challenge discrimination and barriers they encounter?
  • people are supported to make their own decisions and shape their own daily lives?
  • everyone focuses on people's abilities and what they can offer?
  • local amenities are being planned with a good awareness of the needs of people with learning disabilities?
  • what people with learning disabilities want shapes the services and support commissioned and developed by the council?
  • local district, town and parish plans reflect the views and the requirements of people with learning disabilities?
  • local businesses and community facilities hear about the barriers they present, and what they can do to better serve people with learning disabilities as consumers or as potential employees?
  • people with learning disabilities have a powerful and political voice?
  • people who need high levels of support have the opportunity, and the support they need, to lead ordinary community-based lives?

The Disability Equality Duty (effective from 4 December 2006)

The basic requirement for a public authority when carrying out their functions is to have due regard to do the following:

  • promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people
  • eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act
  • eliminate harassment of disabled people that is related to their disability
  • promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
  • encourage participation by disabled people in public life
  • take steps to meet disabled people's needs, even if this requires more favourable treatment.

'Due regard' means that authorities should give due weight to the need to promote disability equality in proportion to its relevance.

Many, in fact most, public authorities also have a set of specific duties which centre on the production of a Disability Equality Scheme to help them meet their overall general duty. At the heart of the Disability Equality Duty is the requirement to involve disabled people in producing the Disability Equality Scheme including the action plan.. Public authorities also have to set out in the Scheme how they will carry out disability equality impact assessments.

From 'Doing the duty: an overview of the Disability Equality Duty for the public sector, Disability Rights Commission'.

Are you ready for gender equality?

The Gender Equality Duty is in force from April 2007. All public authorities must demonstrate that they are promoting equality for women and men and that they are eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment.

The Equal Opportunities Commission advises that public service providers will need to look at who uses their services, and ask questions such as:

  • What are the different issues and priorities for women and men who receive the service we provide? Do they have different requirements and needs to be met by our service?
  • Will women or men be put off using the service because of things such as lack of same-sex support staff? 
  • Are there some services that are more effectively delivered as women-only or men-only?

Pub lic authorities will also have to look at their employment policies to see how they affect women and men in the staff team. What will this mean for community support services ? What changes will you need to introduce, and how might you use the Gender Equality Duty to help create new local opportunities for people?

Give it some thought.

Practice examples

More and more councils are adopting the social model of disability and are actively working across all their departments to the principles of inclusion and equal citizenship that it embodies. See:

Links and resources

Values of Inclusion

  • EVERYONE IS BORN IN - We are born among people, and only sent away later.
  • ALL MEANS ALL - Everyone capable of breathing is entitled to be included. No one is too difficult, too old, too poor or too disabled to qualify.
  • EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE PRESENT - If we have never been present, no one will know when we're missing.
  • EVERYONE NEEDS TO BELONG - We need to know there's a place for us, not just a space for us. None of us has to pass a test or meet a set of criteria before we can be included.
  • EVERYONE CAN LEARN - As human beings we all grow and change and make mistakes: and we are all capable of learning.
  • EVERYONE NEEDS SUPPORT - Sometimes some of us need more support than others.
  • EVERYONE CAN COMMUNICATE - Not using words doesn't mean we don't have anything to say.
  • EVERYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE - We need to recognise, encourage and value each person's contributions - including our own.
  • TOGETHER WE ARE BETTER - We are not dreaming of a world where everyone is like us - difference is our most important renewable resource