Christine Burke, Senior Development Manager:
"Last week we launched our Reaching out to Families report which looks at the issues facing people with learning disabilities, and their families, from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. The report is complemented by two guides for practitioners, one on cultural competence practice and one on cultural competence planning providing practical guidance and tools that can be used in supporting families.
Despite the statutory obligation to ensure there is equal access to services for people with learning disabilities, we know that in practice this obligation is not always fulfilled. Recently there has been increasing talk of 'double discrimination'. In this particular sense, it is where both ethnicity and disability form a double barrier to those seeking care. In practice it means that people with learning disabilities from BME backgrounds can be subject to services that are not always culturally sensitive - this is often fuelled by unsound assumptions about what certain ethnic groups value, and is further compounded by a lack of knowledge as to where the families are. It is against this background that our Reaching out to Families project, commissioned by the Department of Health, was initiated.
The project involved establishing and working with local groups that included third sector community-based organisations alongside statutory services. The aim was to build strong, sustainable local networks while at the same time accumulating important lessons and knowledge for wider dissemination. Interviews with local community leaders and family carers (from different BME backgrounds) were undertaken and then analysed by the local project group to see what factors affected success/failure in accessing appropriate services, and what could be done differently to ensure local improvements were achieved.
The findings of the study, which can be read in full in the report itself, seemed mostly to accord with other recent initiatives on the subject. One central issue we highlight in the report is the need for proper identification of the needs and aspirations of different BME groups. The BME community cannot be seen as a single homogenous whole – Commissioners and practitioners need to be fully aware of the different concerns and aspirations of each particular group and use these to frame policy and service provision.
We also found that that many BME communities are still unaware of what help is available to them, particularly those who are new to the country and who aren't confident English speakers. This mirrors a 2005 study which showed that over three-quarters of people with learning difficulties from black and minority ethnic communities in Britain were struggling without support. It's therefore absolutely crucial to ensure that everyone knows exactly what help is available and how local systems work.
Our report lays out a number of recommendations which we hope will really resonate in terms of future policy and provision. The underlying message is that work on the needs of people with learning disabilities from BME communities should be given the prominence that it deserves. Everything needs to be done to break down the barriers that prevent that those in need from getting help - that way we can make talk of double discrimination a thing of the past."
Download the report