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Cabinet to consider proposal to change learning disability support

Published: 12 December 2018

Proposals to consult on changing the way people with learning disabilities and autism are supported to lead fulfilling lives are being considered by Derbyshire County Council.

The county council’s cabinet will be asked to agree to seek people’s views on plans to transform support to help people with learning disabilities achieve their ambitions.

People who use the council’s services, their families and carers would also be encouraged to help the council design the support available to them in the future.

The introduction of the Care Act 2014 gave the council greater responsibility to ensure people with learning disabilities and autism lead independent lives.

So it has been working on plans to change support so that it focuses on an individual’s strengths to help them achieve personal goals instead of trying to fit people in to services that are available.

The proposals are that:

  • People who are assessed as having the most complex needs could continue to use suitable equipped day centres to access community activities – although the activities and location offered may change
  • People who are newly-referred to the service but do not have complex needs would be offered one-to-one support to access activities which could include paid work, training or volunteering.
  • Current service users who are not assessed with complex needs can choose to continue using day services. They would be assessed under the council’s transport policy and if they are not eligible for support may have to make and pay for their own travel arrangements to and from the day centre.
  • The council would support voluntary and independent organisations to develop a wider range of opportunities available for people with learning disabilities and autism.
  • Redesign work-based day services offered by the council to become employment skills and training hubs. These would offer people the opportunity to receive training and support them into work and, where appropriate, paid employment.

Councillors will be asked to approve a 12-week consultation with people with learning disabilities and autism, their relatives and carers in to the proposed changes when they meet on December 20.

Figures show that the number of people, particularly younger people, using day centres has fallen. Of the 15 council-run centres around the county, 14 have empty places as people are choosing to do other things.

Councillor Jean Wharmby, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Care, said:

“Everyone deserves a fulfilling life – whatever their abilities.

“People with learning disabilities have told us they just want to lead ordinary lives by getting involved in their local community, going out with friends, learning new skills or getting a job.

“Instead of trying to fit people in to services we have available, we are keen to make sure our support focuses on an individual’s strengths to help them achieve personal goals.

“We are committed to supporting people with learning disabilities, their families and carers but traditional services, such as day centres, may not always be the best way to do this.”

The county council currently supports around 680 people aged from 18 to over 65 with learning disabilities – of those, around 460 currently attend a county council day centre.

During a series of workshops organised by the council which were attended by 450 people, people with learning difficulties said they wanted to be an active part of their local community, see friends and family, learn new skills, get a job or volunteer.

Councillor Wharmby added:

“I’d like to reassure people that we are committed to working together to come up with a service shaped by the people it affects most.

“And we are fully committed to supporting people with learning disabilities, their families and carers through any future changes as well as working with the independent sector to develop more opportunities for them to lead independent lives.”