Direct Contact with Senior Government Leaders.

Last week I received a cordial response to my email of the 7th August to Sir Chris Mormald from Gareth James who is the Government Lead for Policy and Strategy /Dementia and Disabilities. Gareth outlined in detail why he believes the present policy to be on course and making headway. Unfortunately, although I do not doubt his sincerity and goodi ntentions, I fear he has been grievously misled. Accordingly, I have sent him the following response.



Dear Gareth,

I thank you, and Sir Christopher, for your detailed and interesting response of the 20th September to the points that I initially raised. However, I regret that these do not allay my concerns that the current learning disability policy is representative of a rudderless ship heading for the rocks without a captain at the helm. The failure of your predecessors to exercise due diligence before accepting and implementing policy guidance, coupled with the failure of contemporary academics and charitable organisations to effectively explore and challenge questionable doctrines, has had catastrophic social and financial consequences. There is ample evidence to support the opinion that sound and viable policies were displaced by misguided and blatantly irrational theories and that the effects have been covered up for decades.

The core issue has been the distinction between ‘evolutionary’ and ‘revolutionary’ principles. The conviction held by practitioners and realists, based on the pioneering work of distinguished academics of the 1950s/60s, is that structured and specialist input should be applied where necessary to meet the needs of people with all levels of ability – this worked!  On the other hand, revolutionary academics and philosophers believe that a welcoming community will take care of all needs at all levels, mainly by getting everybody into paid employment – this has manifestly not worked!

The latter group could be termed ‘fringe people’ as, invariably, they have been involved in one or more aspects of very complex areas of need and fixated on these whilst ignoring the bigger picture. Yet it is this group that have had the power to manipulate policy direction for the past quarter of a century, and have now embedded a mind-set in their current peer group that perpetuates misguided idealism. Unless the fragility of their doctrines is exposed, this will continue to hold back any hope of progress towards a rational, viable, financially sound, national policy.

50 years ago, along with the Scandinavian countries, we were recognised as world leaders in this field. Today, recurrent scandals such as Winterbourne View, which were predictable and avoidable, emphasize just how low our international reputation and standards have sunk because of politically correct speculation.

For many years, I have appealed to influential individuals and organisations, personally and through publications in professional journals, for an objective and informed debate in the public domain. As recent events confirm that the ‘fringe’ element are still ominously active and influential, I no longer consider this to be the solution. The amount of human suffering and waste of taxpayers’ money are of such magnitude that surely the irresponsibility of your predecessors should be called to account, and carers and frustrated practitioners should be enabled to have their voices heard.

You have a critical role within which you are dependent upon accurate and verifiable feedback. Regrettably, it is patently clear that even, at the highest levels at which conferences are taking place, the government continues to be misled by the distortion of the developmental history of learning disability policies. I now believe it is in the interests of all concerned that former damaging misconceptions should be rectified and the role of ‘fringe’ elements critically scrutinised. It would appear that something like a Judicial Review would provide a more appropriate solution.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Henley

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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