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People with learning disabilities experience loss and bereavement - Analyse how services might support people in these circumstances.

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"For many years people with a learning disability have had...forgotten grief and have often become forgotten people when it comes to meaningful support over the death of a loved one" (Read, 1997, p.5). This assignment will analyse how services might support people in these circumstances by examining the historical context of people with learning disabilities, considering the social model of disability, anti-oppressive practice and service delivery. The World Health Organisation defines learning disability as "a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind", and somebody with a learning disability is said also to have "significant impairment of intellectual functioning" and "significant impairment of adaptive/social functioning" (World Health Organisation, 2001). This means the person will have difficulties understanding, learning and remembering new things which may result in difficulties with a number of social tasks, for example communication, self-care and awareness of health and safety (Northfield, 2001). The day-to-day lives of people with learning disabilities and their families are affected by the way they are perceived and treated by the communities in which they live. Historically, public and private attitudes have been of intolerance and lack of understanding. The right to freedom from discrimination for people with disabilities, including those with a learning disability, has been enshrined in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, however there is still much to be done to change public attitudes (Mencap, 2002). The creation of Poor Laws in 1834 and the subsequent building of 'asylums' and 'institutions' to remove people described as 'mad' from society continued into the early 20th Century. Reforming educationalists later succeeded in passing laws that encouraged the building of schools for 'feeble minded' children. ...read more.


The project is free and is the only service specifically tailored to meet the bereavement care needs of people with learning disabilities in Staffordshire. Service users from other counties may access the project but have to travel to do so. The Down's Syndrome Association UK run an Information Service dealing with queries including "...support for carers of relatively elderly people with Down's Syndrome with concerns about the future" (www.dsa-uk.com/frameset.htm). They produce a range of literature including one publication addressing death and bereavement, 'Depression in people with a learning disability' (Appendix A). Down Syndrome Scotland (www.dsscotland.org.uk) offers support to parents and others and gives members the chance to share their experiences. Whilst they do not offer bereavement care services, they produce a range of publications including 'Let's talk about death' which discusses the feelings that may be experienced when a loved one dies (Appendix B). Whilst people with learning disabilities are not excluded from accessing general bereavement counselling, the majority of support services cater for bereaved adults, children and young people and does not extend to people with learning disabilities who need a service that recognises their specific needs, welcomes and values them (Read et al, 1999). 'Cruse', despite being the leading UK nationwide charity for "anyone who has been affected by a death" and 'Winston's Wish', a nationwide charity meeting the needs of "bereaved children and young people" offers no support aimed specifically at people with learning disabilities, nor do their training and consultancy services specialise in working with people with learning disabilities (www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk and www.winstonswish.org.uk). Read (1997) criticises the lack of specialist education, training and supervision for service providers working with bereaved people with learning disabilities, arguing it is crucial that service providers are adequately trained to know how best to care for these service users. ...read more.


Nearly all long-stay hospitals are now closed and many rights are now enshrined in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, however the reality is that many people with learning disabilities are still denied equal treatment and social inclusion. This assignment has demonstrated that the greatest challenges facing agencies working to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities are to change public attitudes, raise understanding and provide appropriate services (Mencap, 2002). BIBLIOGRAPHY (TEXTS/JOURNALS/PUBLISHED PAPERS) Conboy-Hill, S., 1992 in Waitman A. & Conboy-Hill, S (Eds), 1st Edition, Psychotherapy & mental handicap, London, Sage Publications Down's Syndrome Association, 1996, 1st Edition, Depression in people with learning disability, London, Down's Syndrome Association Morris, J., 1997, 1st Edition, Community Care: Working in partnership with service users, London, Venture Press Oswin, M., 1991, 1st Edition, Am I allowed to cry? - A study of bereavement amongst people who have learning difficulties, London, Souvenir Press Prout, H. T. & Strohmer, D.C. (Eds), 1st Edition, Counselling & psychotherapy with persons with mental retardation & borderline intelligence, New York, Clinical Psychology Publishing Read, S., 1997, 1st Edition, A sense of loss: working with loss and people who have a learning disability, Nursing Standard Learning Unit 071, 11 (36) Read, S., Frost, I., Messenger, N. & Oates, S, 1999, 1st Edition, Bereavement counselling and support for people with a learning disability: identifying issues and exploring possibilities in British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 27, Read, S., 2000, 1st Edition, A year in the life of a bereavement counselling and support service for people with learning disabilities, Journal of Learning Disabilities, London, Sage Publications Thomas, J., 2000, 1st Edition, Someone died - it happened to me, High Wycombe, Child Bereavement Trust Thompson, N. ...read more.

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