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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.