The Department of Health says that a major reason for the delay in publishing its delivery plan was the need to respond to Sir Jonathan Michael's Healthcare for All report on access to health services for people with a learning disability.
Happily, the Valuing People Now delivery plan includes a significant section on Sir Jonathan Michael's report – fully accepting, or accepting the aims, of each of the ten recommendations.
At national level, the delivery plan says the Department of Health will provide guidance for the NHS on public bodies' duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and work with Strategic Health Authorities to support Primary Care Trusts to commission appropriate services.
Valuing People Now recognises the need for people with a learning disability to be able to choose where they live and who they live with. While none of its plans are groundbreaking, they include closing NHS campuses by 2010, giving more people access to direct payments and using person-centred planning.
The government also makes a commitment to monitor the number of adults with a learning disability known to social services who move into settled accommodation.
The delivery plan addresses the fact that most people with a learning disability want to work, but that very few are in paid employment. A separate employment strategy was originally expected alongside the delivery plan, but has now been promised for ‘early 2009' by Anne Williams. Valuing People Now says that the strategy will focus on the ‘presumption of employability'.
The actions set out in the Valuing People Now delivery plan are solid enough. But will they actually be delivered as promised? A major criticism of the original Valuing People white paper concerned Learning Disability Partnership Boards (LDPBs). They were designed to give people with a learning disability and family carers a voice at local level, but recent reports suggest that their effectiveness is patchy.
Valuing People Now says that LDPBs must take on a central role in the local delivery of its objectives. They will need to report to new regional boards, and these reports must be agreed by selfadvocates and family carers.
However, while the Department of Health has gone as far as it can to give LDPBs a greater level of leverage, this has all been within the limits of existing legislation and statutory powers. Raymond Johnson from People First (Self Advocacy) says the plans are welcome, but advocates and carers are at risk of being sidelined: "It doesn't protect their rights in law."
While the majority of the Valuing People Now delivery plan must be welcomed, the feeling is that it could have gone further.
This article appeared in the January/February 2009 edition of Viewpoint
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