For the last month or so I have been researching the background to the deficiencies in the history of the development of services for people with learning disabilities. This was brought about when my attention was drawn to the increasing number of people who have set themselves as experts and are publishing information that it totally inaccurate and misleading. Although this came as no surprise, it deeply concerned me.  Reputable bodies such as universities were accepting and passing on this information as factual. Although I have continued to draw the attention of many, particularly academics and charity executives, to the discrepancies between fact and fiction, this has been ignored.

The problem is that there is no reliable reference source to which serious researchers can get to know the truth concerning when and how things went so badly wrong. The timeline of learning disability history published on the Open University website and supported by many other reputable universities, misses out information on vital developments between 1970 and 2001 that for many thousands of vulnerable people were to be life changing events. This was a critical period when appalling mistakes were made that transformed successful policies into the disastrous state that exists with care in the community today.

I am currently finalising an intended monograph that will spell out the timeline of developmental history of learning disabilities day services as seen through the eyes of a practitioner. Inevitably this leads back to those publications I have previously held responsible, namely the King’s Fund Centre’s ‘Project Paper No. 50 ‘An Ordinary Working Life’ (1984), the Independent Development Council’s ‘Living like other people’,(1985) and East Sussex Social Service Department’s documents ‘Working it out’ and ‘Responses to working it out’ publications 1986/87.

Events and evidence supports the view that these publications were largely responsible for the decimation of services that followed. Information already in the public domain provides an interesting insight into the parts played by David Towell,  a Fellow in Health Policy and Development, King’s Fund Centre, and Ken Young, Director of Social Services, East Sussex County Council, who took it upon themselves to circulate theories based on speculation and wishful thinking without apparently carrying out reliable and validated research. More to follow.

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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