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“The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted.”

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Quote: Elizabeth Dole


News of the recent High Court decision deeming the National Disability Strategy unlawful has highlighted the importance of meaningful consultation of people with disabilities when drafting new legislation which impacts their lives. People with learning disabilities are crying out for a new learning disability policy for England, to replace existing guidance. Indeed, the national learning disability policy has not been amended since 2009, when Valuing People Now replaced Valuing People, 2001. The involvement of people with a learning disability in the Oliver McGowan mandatory training trials and the Learning Disability Voices Network in Brighton demonstrate their ambition to be further involved in the development of policy and practice.

So, why does this need to happen? And how does meaningful engagement of people with learning disabilities in the policy process impact those policies and resulting practice?

Why do we need a new policy?

This question a good one when we could say the DHSC‘s priority should remain with supporting management of the pandemic. However, the vaccine rollout and disproportionate uptake from people with learning disability itself partly answers this question. People with a learning disability matter; there needs to be equality, an updated policy which represents their interests, needs and aspirations, as well as detailing how these will be met nationally and in turn, locally.

As touched upon in my introduction, existing learning disability policy is out of date; no updates have been published in the last 13 years. In that time, inevitable change has happened; people change, attitudes within, and the structure of society changes and there have been recognised advances in research and best practice. Valuing People Now remains referenced in the current compete framework for learning disability. Surely, this needs to be reviewed to maintain quality of service, consistency across providers, all staff having up to date skills and knowledge. A new national policy has the potential to provide this, filtering down to providers to inform local policy.

Why is it important we involve people in the process?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the involvement of people with lived experience in shaping Valuing People Now led to ownership of that policy by people with a learning disability. As such, they were key agents in holding providers accountable when expected standards were not being met. Sadly, as the policy became outdated, the involvement of individuals in this way seems to have diminished somewhat.

Equally, involving people in development of a new policy would inevitably give them a voice in shaping the future of support services for people with a learning disability in England. People with a learning disability take pride in this involvement; it boosts their self-esteem, affords confidence and provides skills essential in the labour market and life.

Finally, people with lived experience know better than any policy maker or commissioner, where services are currently deficient. This experience offers unique insight into what could be put in place to best improve access to, and quality of, service for people with a learning disability. This insight is invaluable in producing an accurate person-centred policy whilst ensuring the resultant change is tangible on people’s lives and experiences.

In Summary:

Undoubtedly, England’s learning disability policy needs a timely update, and evidence suggests that people with lived experience are best placed to push this forward. Indeed, it needs to happen in an inclusive, meaningful way if the government wishes to avoid the recent challenge surrounding the National Disability Strategy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with a learning disability are keen to be involved, as their lived experience shows the progression of practice and they know how this needs to continue moving forward. They are also keen for the teaching of learning disability in schools to promote inclusion and understanding from an early age. This initiative would be fabulous in shaping social attitudes; even better if co-facilitated by people with a learning disability!

A new policy would be the kickstart these wider initiatives so richly deserve...

For further information on training available in Learning Disability and Autism, please check out or feel free to get in touch,

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