17th LDAG meeting (and my last!) by Samantha Williams

Sam Williams

The 17th LDAG meeting, and my last, took place on 20 September 2016 in Cardiff. Topics covered included the Supporting People Programme, day services in North Wales and what support is needed to enable people with a learning disability in Wales to achieve their well-being outcomes.

Ceri Breeze from the Housing Policy Division within Welsh Government gave a presentation about a piece of work he is undertaking to look at the Supporting People Programme and how the £31 million a year is being spent. Supporting People funding is paid directly to local authorities who use it to commission housing-based support from providers such as housing associations. The fundamental role of the programme is to prevent homelessness, whether that is by providing suitable accommodation or supporting people to maintain their tenancies. Ceri will be carrying out an initial mapping exercise to establish what information is currently available on how the money is spent. His department will also be seeking the expertise of groups like LDAG to help them with this study.

Catherine Watchorn, representing All Wales People First, talked about some research she has been doing in North Wales to find out if people in day services were ever given the choice about what they do during the day. Most of the people she questioned did not remember ever being asked whether or not they wanted to go to the day centre and were not aware that they had a choice. Catherine now plans to talk to young people with a learning disability in schools and colleges in North Wales to find out if they are being given the opportunity to choose what they do next as part of the transition process. This is very important as one of the core themes of the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is that people should have 'voice and control' in their lives, including the services they receive, so it will be interesting to see if this is actually happening on the ground.

After lunch, LDAG members were divided into two groups to look at the outcomes framework for delivering integrated support for people with a learning disability. We were asked to think about what services or tools were already in place in Wales to help people with a learning disability achieve the well-being outcomes, what gaps or barriers might prevent this from happening and what LDAG could suggest to overcome these barriers. This piece of work will help to inform any new policy strategy or statement and will also form the basis for LDAG's future workplans.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog post, this was my last LDAG meeting. After over 7 and a half years as Information Officer for the Learning Disability Advisory Group (and its predecessor the Learning Disability Implementation Advisory Group), my post comes to an end on 30 September. When I first started in this role, I knew very little about learning disabilities and my first few meetings were extremely daunting. Being in a room with so many experts who had years of experience in the field, either professionally or personally, was totally overwhelming. Half the time, I had no idea what was going on as I struggled to understand what people were talking about. It was a steep learning curve. In between meetings, I spent hours reading policies, guidance and best practice documents to improve my knowledge. I met with a wide variety of people including professionals, parents and people with a learning disability to ask questions and increase my understanding. I will always be grateful to everyone who took the time to speak to me and answer my seemingly endless questions in those early days, especially Yvonne Boxall from All Wales People First and Prof David Felce from the Welsh Centre for Learning Disabilities at Cardiff University, both of whom have now retired. Over the years I've been lucky enough to meet and work with so many amazing, passionate and dedicated people as part of my role. I've learnt so much and feel proud to have been part of a group that aims to improve the lives of people with a learning disability and their families.

While I will no longer be part of LDAG from 1 October, I will still be based at Learning Disability Wales as I have been since January 2009. I have recently started working on a project aimed at improving support for parents with a learning disability in Wales. As the Policy and Network Co-ordinator for the Working Together with Parents Network I will be working with parents and professionals from across Wales to find out how parents with a learning disability can be best supported to look after their families. There will be network meetings in both North and South Wales for parents and professionals to get together and talk about some of the issues and possible solutions. We will also be establishing an Expert Panel to look at how good practice can be implemented across services in Wales including social care, health and the criminal justice system. If anyone would like to be involved in the network or simply find out more, please contact me on 029 20681160 or email samantha.williams@ldw.org.uk. Details of the UK-wide network can also be found on the Norah Fry Institute website www.wtpn.co.uk.

15th LDAG meeting by Catherine Watchorn

Catherine Watchorn

My name is Catherine Watchorn. I am from Anglesey in North Wales.
I was selected to be part of LDAG to represent people with a learning disability from North Wales. I get support from advocacy to help me to go to LDAG meetings. I have attended 3 LDAG meetings so far.

We got the train at 10.40am on Monday 2nd March.  We had coffee and it was nice and sunny outside but it was funny because we got wet on the train - there was water coming in! When the conductor came round to check the train tickets I told him that there was water coming in the train so he said he would make sure they checked it when they got in to Cardiff. It took 5 hours to get to Cardiff. We had a talk with the train staff and I asked if they knew anything about the orange wallet scheme. We were looking at our map and they asked us where we were staying so we said the Novotel hotel.  They helped us to find it on the map and showed us what road we needed to take. They also told us it would take 5 minutes in the taxi to go to Cardiff Bay. They were nice people to talk to and very helpful.

We read our LDAG papers on the train to look over the work before the next day's meeting to see what we could bring up and what people were going to talk about in the meeting.  I was looking forward to meeting the Minister Mark Drakeford as he was supposed to be coming to the LDAG meeting to talk to us but we found out he was not coming because he was sick. The meeting was very good and we had a good talk about what the LDAG has been working on and what it wants to do next. After Wayne's presentation about parents with a learning disability, I talked about my experience as a parent and that things weren't explained to me properly. I was told I had to sign forms but I found out years later that I didn't have to sign them. It is important for parents to get the right support.

Everyone was very nice and welcoming. I can't wait for the next meeting with LDAG in May.

LDAG meeting March 2016

15th LDAG meeting by Catherine Watchorn

Catherine Watchorn

My name is Catherine Watchorn. I am from Anglesey in North Wales.
I was selected to be part of LDAG to represent people with a learning disability from North Wales. I get support from advocacy to help me to go to LDAG meetings. I have attended 3 LDAG meetings so far.

We got the train at 10.40am on Monday 2nd March.  We had coffee and it was nice and sunny outside but it was funny because we got wet on the train - there was water coming in! When the conductor came round to check the train tickets I told him that there was water coming in the train so he said he would make sure they checked it when they got in to Cardiff. It took 5 hours to get to Cardiff. We had a talk with the train staff and I asked if they knew anything about the orange wallet scheme. We were looking at our map and they asked us where we were staying so we said the Novotel hotel.  They helped us to find it on the map and showed us what road we needed to take. They also told us it would take 5 minutes in the taxi to go to Cardiff Bay. They were nice people to talk to and very helpful.

We read our LDAG papers on the train to look over the work before the next day's meeting to see what we could bring up and what people were going to talk about in the meeting.  I was looking forward to meeting the Minister Mark Drakeford as he was supposed to be coming to the LDAG meeting to talk to us but we found out he was not coming because he was sick. The meeting was very good and we had a good talk about what the LDAG has been working on and what it wants to do next. After Wayne's presentation about parents with a learning disability, I talked about my experience as a parent and that things weren't explained to me properly. I was told I had to sign forms but I found out years later that I didn't have to sign them. It is important for parents to get the right support.

Everyone was very nice and welcoming. I can't wait for the next meeting with LDAG in May.

LDAG meeting March 2016

14th LDAG meeting by Liz Majer

Liz Majer

I have attended three or four meetings of the LDAG now as representative of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) in Wales. The group has been together for some time and I feel I am just beginning to get to know people and how they feel about things that affect the lives of people with a learning disability. It is a very interesting group as everyone is very different, but it is clear that we are all committed to improving the lives of people with a learning disability and their families. I am encouraged that at this meeting people with a learning disability, their carers and professionals who work with them are treated equally and all listen to each other. The meeting starts with a reminder of the ground rules that members are expected to follow throughout.

As a Director of Social Services for Blaenau Gwent I am aware of the major cultural change that will be introduced with the Social Services and Well Being Act in April 2016 and feel this is a great opportunity for me to be engaged in something like LDAG. One of the items on the agenda was about collecting information in a different way so we are not just counting numbers of people but considering what difference services make to people's lives. There will be further work on this to ensure we collect the information we need to plan services better.

I was a little disconcerted when I heard at the meeting that the group comes to the end of its current lifespan in March 2016, but we will be planning for the next 12 months after that. As a result, we spent a lot of time talking about priorities for the future of this group and discussed important issues like employment and services for people with a learning disability who get into trouble with the police. We would also need to continue work to ensure people with a learning disability get equal care from health services as anyone else in the population.

This is an important group as it has the opportunity to speak directly to the Minister for Health and Social Services and Welsh Government, and to ensure that the people most affected by policies and services have a voice in how they are developed.

13th LDAG meeting by new member Keith Brelstaff

My name is Keith Brelstaff, I am the manager for additional learning needs and inclusion in Powys, and I was very pleased to be able to join the Learning Disability Advisory Group as a representative of the Association of Directors of Education in Wales. I am particularly interested in the needs of young people preparing for adulthood and how the learning opportunities for people with a learning disability can provide a positive start to adult life and lifelong learning can continue that process.

The agenda for my first ever LDAG meeting in September 2015 was really interesting and it struck me that the 3 main discussions were linked in the following ways:

Ven diagram

This really shows how important it is not to simply look at each issue in isolation. Everything knits together to make what we could call an "ordinary life". The more we see links and patterns between areas of our work the better and that includes the relationships we have between services. I hope that what I learn from these meetings I can feed into the discussions among educationalists and providers. I hope that the discussions, especially those involving people with a learning disability themselves as well as those who work with them, will have a direct impact on policy making in Wales and I look forward to playing whatever part I can in moving this agenda forward.