Belated catch-up. 

My apologies: on the 7th August I posted a similar blog on the bulletin of my own website:   and on WordPress, referring to an email I had sent to the Department of Health for the attention of Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary of State. His, apparently, is the most powerful positon in the National Health Service.

Based on years of personal experience and ongoing research, this email referred to the appalling deterioration of provision of services for people with learning disabilities over the past 50 years. This was due to the power to control policy direction being taken out of the hands of experienced and caring people and given to others with little knowledge and experience. Whilst they may well have good intentions these intruders rarely have sufficient experience or insight to recognise the complexity of the widely ranging problems that need addressing. These are people I term ‘fringe people’, who most often also fail to recognize their own limitations

More of this later, the point I wish to make concerns the reactions to my postings. Although I was aware that the people most responsible for the decimation of UK services were intent on spreading misguided and irrational polices further afield, I had hoped that they had not been successful. As I have previously mentioned on my posting of the 13th August, on Wednesday August 9th I received responses from Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and another from France on August 10th.

As the points that I am raising are largely ignored in the UK, except by a small band of dedicated and insightful supporters, it is interesting that internationally, with few exceptions, these messages were appreciative of being provided with basic awareness concerning the alarming direction of policies in the UK and how this came about.

I have so far failed to provide the further information I promised and will now try to set this right by posting a series of blogs posted earlier this year on my Charles Henley Facebook. These were intended to awaken UK carers to the sinister way that policies that were proving successful 30 years ago were undermined and decimated and have led to the decimation of support services and the risk of a return to further re-institutionalization.


First posted 10th February 2017

The value and reputation of day centres has been taking a hammering over the past months. In the interests of looking at Day Centre issues from the carers point of view bear with me if I enlarge on my previous statement that the outlook for carers and their family members was better 50 years ago (when I first came into this work), than it is now.

For elderly parents the 1950s/60s era was a painful experience finding most of them spending 24 hours/7days of the week/52 weeks of the year looking after  disadvantaged family members rather than despatch them to a totally segregated and impoverished lifestyles in remote and overcrowded residential institutions.

.The running down of these institutions in the 1960s saw a governmental change of attitude with recognition of how dependent it was upon parental support to enable  these newly freed people to remain in the community.

Supported by Mencap {until the 1980s), carers groups pressed for and supported additional day centre capacity. For carers this meant 5 working days respite every week, some could take up jobs and others have a life of their own; they could be deeply involved in programme planning for their adult children, in the early days meals and transport being provided free. Day Centre Parents groups provided mutual support, and bonding with staff inspired confidence and continuity in joint training projects.

By 1980, not only did carers have continuous weekly support, but staff gave their time to run yearly holidays for the attendees and enabled carers to take an away yearly break themselves. Day Centres became vibrant community centres created by the input of positively motivated carers who also welcomed the introduction of sheltered workshops for the more able people.

Those experts leading evolutionary service policies at that time had the insight and experience to complete a policy that would meet the approval of carers of people with all levels of ability – but they were denied the opportunity

Turn the clock fast forward to 2017 and what sort of deal are carers getting instead? The pressure is so great for day centre places that families are having to struggle to get a day or two of respite whilst their offspring lack the continuity that specialist and structured services could provide.

Centres are being passed back to voluntary and privatised sources whilst personal budget holders are left to purchase services at random from possibly dubious and psychologically damaging resources. Individuals have had to resort to setting up private enterprises again along the lines of those functioning well in the 1980s. Mutually supportive day care and special care units have been phased out of a continuity of opportunities for the most profoundly disadvantaged, whilst sheltered workshops and Remploy have been terminated despite the strong resistance and protests of those who worked within in them.

Currently, there is no clear indication that an achievable national strategic  policy has been identified, nor how relevant the experience and qualifications are of those responsible for the present policy debacle.

In the 1980s carers saw and supported undeniably positive changes being put in place by experienced and caring pioneers. Today, they see the outcome of policies built on unproven dogmas and unrealistic expectations tearing rational care in the community apart.

For years I have believed that carers have been victims of the cruellest confidence scam in social history. That this continues leads me to cynically question whether this is all a part of a much deeper calculated process? Is the final objective to ensure that at the end of the day, the whole problem of taking care of the immensely complex problem is being dumped right back into the hands of the carers?

This could not possibly have happened in the 1980s when the strength of the unity of Day Centre families could have prevented it, but tactics being being followed currently have not only diluted this strength, but has set different sets of carers against other sets of carers. In this divisive situation, anything is possible.


Author: charlesahenley

Following a varied career starting with 4 years as a city office worker, 4 years service in the RAF both as ground staff ad flying duties, 16 years working for IBM Time systems division as a service engineer, a short spell as a production line supervisor, before returning as service manager to another US business machines corporation who had taken over IBM Time systems division in the UK. The nature of this work brought into contact with day centre establishments for people with learning disabilities and in 1966 when radical and progressive policies were awakening I changed career direction. In the years that followed I worked for five different authorities at centres ranging in size from 24 to 190 attendees of all levels of ability and saw remarkably progressive policies being introduced in the first 20 years for the benefit of the attendees and their carers. Sadly, as a consequence of local authorities gaining full control of policy implementation from 1990 onwards, service support went into a spiral of decline that has made debacle of the rational principles of care in the community. There is now a vital need to take responsibility for service implementation away from local authorities and the NHS and grant it to a single service agency under the direction of its own Minister. Without an urgent change of direction, the current dire situation can only worsen.

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