The well-being of people with learning disabilities
This chapter examines the current role and potential contribution of social work to the lives of people who have learning disabilities. It concentrates on social work with adults, though this is not to deny the significant contribution of social work to the lives of children with learning disabilities (Chapter 11). It looks at contemporary principles of practice such as service user involvement and self-directed support. This chapter is located in policy and practice in Scotland (Scottish Executive 2000; Scottish Executive 2006b) and elsewhere. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide detailed discussion about the legislation which impacts upon the lives of people with learning disabilities, which in any case varies from country to country. Further, although it is not customary to write about current ways of working with people with learning disabilities without some reference to the history of learning disability services, this chapter does not deal with past practices in any depth. Histories of learning disability abound, including testimonies of people with learning disabilities themselves (see, for example, Atkinson et al. 1997; Ingham 2002; Atkinson et al. 2005). This chapter does, however, include service user and carer contributions through discussion of the issues raised. It is difficult to reach consensus on the meaning of the term ‘learning disability’ as definitions vary according to time, place and culture. Recognizing these ambiguities in definition is not a new phenomenon, nor one confined to Scotland or the UK (Valentine 1956; Purdie and Ellis 2005). The Scottish Executive document The Same As You? proposes a definition which will be used for the purposes of this chapter:
People with leaning disabilities have a significant, lifelong condition that started before adulthood, that affected their development and which means that they need help to:
Understand information; Learn skills; and Cope independently.