A report and guidance has been published by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) that aims to tackle the inequalities in health and social care faced by people with learning disabilities who are from from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.

The report, Reaching out to people with learning disabilities and families from BME Communities, is complemented by two guides that provide practical guidance and tools that local authorities, practitioners and service providers can use in supporting families.The project was initiated to help combat the ‘double discrimination', where ethnicity and disability form a double barrier to those seeking care, that some people have spoken of experiencing. For instance, 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 group’s value, and further compounded by a lack of knowledge as to where the families are located.The report found that local community organisations have a significant role to play in supporting people with learning disabilities and their families from BME communities. Local statutory agencies should examine their own policies and practices openly and honestly in order to eradicate any element of institutional racism that means people with learning disabilities from BME communities are worse off than others.

The project makes several recommendations:

  • A person-centred approach that goes beyond health and social care is needed to embrace families as a whole
  • Families are not “hard to reach,” they simply have to be identified and contacted
  • More attention should be given to the issues highlighted by families from BME communities.

Christine Burke, senior development manager at the FPLD said: “Despite various efforts to improve engagement, BME communities continue to be subject to inequality in access to services for people with learning disabilities.“We must celebrate diversity, not treat it as a problem, as families are not hard to reach and we have to know how to reach them.“The Reaching Out report raises a number of important questions and concerns, but the report highlights how people with learning disabilities, as well as their practitioners and service providers, can be empowered to make decisions that will bring about an end to this form of double discrimination.”

The report is available for free from: http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/publications/reaching-out-report/The 2 guides, Reaching out – Guidance for Practitioners from Social Care and Health Services in Developing Culturally Competent Practice  and Reaching out – Guidance for Families of People with Learning Disabilities and Practitioners in Developing Culturally Competent Planning can be downloaded from: http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/publications/