Community-based day activities and supports for people with learning disabilities
Messages from 'Having a good day' - Wider partnership working
Ordinary daily life means doing things in everyday community settings - in workplaces, around towns and villages, using libraries, public transport, leisure centres, allotments and so on. Social care services must build partnerships with community organisations and wider public service agencies to develop opportunities and facilities that people with learning disabilities can use in the same way as anyone else.
- In areas that demonstrate very good practice in creating ordinary community-based solutions, partnership is part of the service culture.
- There need to be more partnerships between service commissioners and providers, as well as wider community organisations and services, with greater emphasis on cooperation and joint planning and less on competition. Developments are not sufficiently 'joined up’ across providers to give a coherent, planned network of opportunities and support to meet local needs. Many voluntary sector services do not know if, or how they link into local modernisation plans.
- A lot of partnerships are developing that are about pooling money and resources to develop buildings for use by people with learning disabilities alongside other members of the public.
- Health promotion practitioners and advocacy groups are offering supported opportunities in community settings that people enjoy and value. Involvement with local authority community safety strategies is creating helpful initiatives in some areas to address harassment and to help people feel safer in public places. All of these need to be seen as part of the overall network of community opportunities, and they need to be kept going.
- Commissioners and planners need to find ways of developing supportive local communities which will accept and nurture people with learning disabilities. This needs to happen 'from the top’. More areas need to deliberately plan what they will do, and who they will approach to develop wider community partnerships. It helps when commissioners and managers of learning disability services have a really good understanding of local community planning, development and management structures.
- Helpful partnerships are also developing through chance meetings and in unplanned ways, and through opportunities arising outside working hours. These partnerships have formed because people have been ready to grasp the opportunity wherever or whenever it arises.
- Be deliberate: have a plan that says which community organisations and bodies your area will be seeking to develop partnerships with, and how. Seek out people who have partnership, community development and equalities posts in local authorities and district councils, and get them involved. Make sure that you know about local structures for developing and planning employment, business, community leisure, community learning facilities, public transport - and make links.
- Think about who you, your family and neighbours have personal links with - use your networks outside work to nurture new partnerships.
- Think about how community day and employment services can be helped to support each other in 'learning partnerships’: pair services and staff together to learn from each other and develop expertise in community-based support.
- Try to get community organisations to match the support that learning disability services provide: if we provide a worker can you provide one too? Create 'support partnerships’, in which a worker in a mainstream facility is paired with a worker in the learning disability service.
- Draw health promotion/healthy living activities into the network of 'day support’. Integrate them into the modernisation plan.
- Take time to talk to local people and local groups. Good community partnerships are generated by people getting together to make things happen that are of benefit to all. Look out for local campaigns and issues that will affect people with learning disabilities as part of the wider community, and support people to get involved. Find local clubs and societies that could develop opportunities of interest to people with learning disabilities. Develop partnerships that revolve around real-life issues and interests.
Working with community service volunteers in Somerset The Somerset Leisure Access Partnership was set up in 2003 by the Council working with Community Service Volunteers (CSV). The project recruits and trains volunteers to support people with learning disabilities in social and sports activities. For more details go to the account 'Getting a Life in Somerset’.
The Alumwell project. When neighbourhood housing offices based on local estates in the Walsall district were being disposed of, the day services commissioner stepped in and took two for free. A partnership has been developed with the Alumwell Residents Trust to develop one building as a community centre for local people. The Trust has used funding from the Fair Share lottery fund, administered through the Birmingham Foundation, to renovate the building. A local councilor is very involved with the Residents Trust, and a local resident is pushing for it to be really inclusive. There are exciting possibilities.
Holy Bones, Leicester. Leicester City Council social care services have contracted a local Sikh organisation to deliver a service for young Asian people with learning disabilities in transition to adulthood. The service runs seven days a week out of the Sikh community centre.
In Windsor, a partnership with a local girls’ schoollinked to the PSHE national curriculum led to a buddy scheme that has opened up community-based social activities for people in the evenings.
South Gloucestershire learning disabilities service funded a leisure and sports coordinator post within the council’s mainstream community services. The aim of the post was to support people into integrated provision, and there have been some successes. For example, 10 people were supported to use the local golf club and receive training from the golf pro. Two were then supported to join the golf club in their own right.
Following the withdrawal of a contract from a failing provider, the Learning and Skills Council in Nottinghamshire and West Nottinghamshire College worked together to create new provision for learners with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Provision is delivered, developed and quality-assured by the college, with specialist support and behavioural management provided by ASD expert practitioners. The arrangement is succeeding, and early discussions are taking place with local special schools to explore sharing sites, expertise and provision. It is expected that models of effective practice will be disseminated across the region.
From: 'Learning for living and work: improving education and training opportunities for people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities’, LSC (Oct 2006)