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Learning Difficulties and Ethnicity: Updating a Framework for Action

Learning Difficulties and Ethnicity – A Framework for Action was published in 2004. This update draws attention to the continuing relevance of its key messages together with information on the priority areas from Valuing People Now. There is a simplified action plan for action that should be taken locally and how to track progress.The update will be of interest to a wide range of local people and agencies involved in identifying and addressing the needs of people with learning difficulties from BME communities. However, it is of particular relevance for commissioners and providers in local authorities and other statutory agencies, as well as local providers, who all have duties to take certain actions. Learning Disability Partnership Boards, Local Involvement Networks and the new Health and Wellbeing Boards should also use the Framework to ensure progress is made locally and to hold the statutory bodies to account.

It seeks to influence local Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and Commissioning Strategies; it refers particularly to the priorities stated in the national Valuing People Now programme: being in good health, having somewhere to live, being able to get a job, and being an active citizen.

It is also very much driven by the principles contained in the Vision for Adult Social Care, 2010: prevention, personalisation, partnership, plurality, protection, productivity and people. The accompanying ‘Department of Health guidance Practical approaches to co-production, 2010’ identified people from BME communities as one of the groups whose access to services would benefit from a different way of working that involved much greater emphasis on working with local communities. Legislation defines rights and duties: it will be important to ensure that the Equality Act 2010 is implemented in respect of people with learning difficulties from BME communities, especially at a time when some people may feel less secure in their day to day lives.

Improvements have been made which benefit BME communities since Valuing People was introduced. But evidence and reports suggest that there is still much to be done and that this includes addressing remaining issues of discrimination and racism. People from newly arrived communities do not always feel welcomed. Some people with learning difficulties may be neglected within their own communities as issues of shame and stigma persist.

It is not always possible or appropriate to rely on statutory agencies to provide all the care and support that is needed. There are already examples of vibrant local BME community organisations working with and for people with learning difficulties: recently introduced ways of reciprocal working such as Time banking are a natural extension.

The Giving us a Voice project (GUAV) in 2010/11 enabled people with a learning difficulty, their families and carers from BME communities to inform local policy makers about what they need and expect from services. The project has produced a Charter for Inclusion that shows clearly what people and their families need to live happier and safer lives. Local statutory agencies, providers and families are encouraged to sign up to the Charter.