Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities
Foundation stones - Breaking new ground
There have been significant new policy directives across the UK in the past 20 years confirming that people with learning disabilities have the right to expect the same opportunities as other citizens, with the support they need to achieve 'ordinary lives'. Valuing People (2001) reinforced the need for day services to 'modernise' in order to create community-based opportunities and more ordinary patterns of life. The 2005 green paper Independence, Well-being and Choice (see Policy) reiterated that people should have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of their community.
What research tells us
There has been little evaluative research at all into day services and supports for people with learning disabilities, and although significant changes have been taking place since the 1990s there has been virtually no formal research into community-based service models and day service modernisation. Employment provision has received more research attention, but the role of adult education and the further education sector, leisure services, and self-help initiatives, for example, have been virtually unexplored.
Research inevitably lags behind practice and knowledge develops from practice - as demonstrated through the King's Fund/NDT Changing Days programme 1995-2000. Availability of practice examples and accounts of successful practice are very important for commissioners, managers and practitioners who are trying to work in different ways to deliver community-based opportunities and support. Organisations and staff are busy 'doing it', but few have commissioned independent evaluation of the services they are providing, and as yet few people are writing about their practice experiences.
The growth in use of brief, individual stories to illustrate positive changes that people have achieved has helped to show that ordinary days can and are being realised. These stories demonstrate approaches that can help, but they are still relatively thin on the ground. When people and services are breaking new ground it is crucial to reflect and learn from practice, and then to share that learning with others.
And in practice?
People with learning disabilities are breaking new ground - opening doors in society that were previously closed. Many of the practitioners supporting people are innovating day by day. The work is challenging, and needs celebrating. It would be dangerous, though, to see it as special. Having ordinary opportunities and leading an ordinary life of your choosing is not special - it's what all people have a right to.
Commonly, innovators - those at the leading edge of helping people achieve ordinary lives - have many of the following qualities:
- a commitment to people's rights as equal citizens
- a focus on opportunities not services
- determination and persistence to make things happen
- the confidence to challenge
- a positive 'we can do it' attitude
- the ability to support and facilitate without controlling
- the humility to listen carefully to people
- the ability to reflect on what they are doing so that they learn and improve their practice
- they can and do make plans: they know what they want to achieve and they work out the best way to do it
- they don't act alone: most innovators have a group of people around them, or to call on, who can help them think things through, get around problems, address the 'what if' questions, and give some practical assistance if and when it's really needed.
Some questions to ponder
- Do you need to strengthen any of these innovator qualities yourself? What can you do to improve your skills, ability and support network?
- How can you help other people to become more innovative?
- How can you support people locally who are at the leading edge, trying to make ordinary things happen for individuals?
- How can you share information about approaches and strategies that are getting results for people locally?
- What can you do to ensure the basic quality of support at the same time as breaking new ground?
Some accounts of change and innovation:
- Modernising day opportunities in East London, A. Munroe in 'Shaping the future together', FPLD (2005)
- Building positive lifestyles: the community option, A. Lloyd and A. Cole in C. Clark (ed) 'Adult day services and social inclusion: better days, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2001)
- I could go around the world. I never thought of that before!, A. Pattinson in 'Living well', 2.1 (Feb 2002)
- Changing days through person-centred planning: lessons from York, A. Cole in 'Living well', 2.2 (May 2002)
- Extending employment opportunities, H. Griffin in 'Living well', 3.3 (Sept 2003)
- 'I want to do the things other people do., S. Warren in 'Living well', 4.4 (Dec 2004)
- Employment and day opportunities for people in Stockport, D. Cresswell in 'Living well', 5.3 (Oct 2005)
- Developing supported employment in partnership with the private sector, D. Woodcock in 'Learning disability today', 6.3 (Oct 2006)
- The Unlimited Company in 'Learning disability today', 6.3 (Oct 2006)
- Heavy Load Punk Band in 'Learning disability today', 6.3 (Oct 2006)
- StopGAP Dance Company in 'Learning disability today', 6.4 (Dec 2006)
Links and resources
For more practice examples and individual stories:
- 'Having a good day' knowledge review on the SCIE website
- Learning disability today (formerly 'Living well'). Quarterly publication with practical examples of how people with learning disabilities are being supported to achieve employment, learning and leisure. Pavilion Publishing. Tel 01273 623222.
- Community living. Quarterly publication focused on people with learning disabilities achieving equal citizenship. The Elfrida Society. Tel: 0207 359 7443.
- Community Connecting. Quarterly publication focused on people with learning disabilities and inclusion.
- North West Together newsletters on the NWTDT.
And the folllowing websites: