At the end of this month I shall be leaving my current life in local government behind, time for change, maybe even time for a rest! A time also for reflection and for renewing ambition and hope.

Winterbourne View has shaped how we think about learning disability and has placed the whole agenda under a national spotlight. Sadly that spotlight is focused on what can and does go wrong. It has been said that any publicity is good publicity, but in this instance it has been publicity which has stained our learning disability services in the public’s opinion and reduced people’s confidence in our ability to care, support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. All other aspects of the work we do in this field, the developments and advances being made, sit in the shadows.

Over the last three years a great deal has been done. Partners from all parts of the sector have come together, united in a desire to make improvements and atone for failure. We know what went wrong, we know what works, and we know what needs to be in place to make that happen.

Criticisms about the pace of improvement and change are well founded, yet I know that this lack of progress is not reflected in the level of energy, commitment, expertise and resource which has been ploughed into this programme of work. We have become one voice in terms our outrage, our values and our recognition of what is the right thing to do, but have struggled across organisational divides to act as one to make it happen. The level of frustration has matched the level of commitment in equal measures.

The answers and solutions are strikingly simple but the delivery has proven to be hugely complex. I do genuinely believe that we are on the cusp of delivering these much needed changes and improvements, not just to the system but to the culture we all operate within. The organisational alignment is now happening and the opportunity is ours to grasp. It is beginning to feel like one programme building up a good head of steam to propel us forward.

It has become increasingly evident that these changes can not happen in isolation. The wider agenda for learning disability cannot be allowed to languish in the shadows.

This ‘Time For Change’ also demands that we establish a new framework for the future, placing learning disability on an equal platform with other priority areas across Health and Social Care.

The legacy of Valuing People Now has drifted, in the absence of any national strategy, programme or benchmark for the future world of learning disability. It is time, now, to set out our ambition and aspirations to establish and embed an approach which is meaningful; is of the highest quality, and is planned, developed and delivered in co-production with people with a learning disability and family carers. A Framework for the Future - working title only - is needed which encompasses all aspects of people’s lives and at all stages, shifting the spotlight to one of positivity and hope.

The ADASS Collaborative Network has taken up this challenge and has produced a draft framework in order to drive discussion and debate. There is an appetite to make this a reality and there is mounting support and recognition that this is now the time to set this into motion.

If the framework is to have traction and influence then it must have government and partner sign up, and it must be led and driven by people with a learning disability. We are committed to sharing power in order to support people to shape their own destiny and understand what that means in terms of  models of care and support, employment, health, housing and commissioning – but we need to learn how to do that well.

If, in this Time For Change, we are to learn from what has happened in the past, then we must create a future where it cannot happen again. The Framework for the Future would provide us with a platform from which to do just that. The ADASS Network is committed to shaping and supporting this work and will encourage and join with partners from across the sector to make this a reality.

If you would like to contribute/support this development let us know and we will ensure that you are involved and engaged throughout the process. Time For Change is not optional and it is time to create a brighter future for all people with a learning disability in our society.

Andrea Pope-Smith
Joint Chair - ADASS Learning Disabilities Network

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