Dan Parton cutA man with learning disabilities addressed a Parliamentary group recently to talk about the importance of personalised community support – but MPs need to listen more regularly to such voices.

Clive Pressinger, who is in his 50s and spent much of his 20s and 30s in long-stay institutional settings, spoke out at an All Party-Parliamentary Group For Autism (APPGA) meeting at Westminster on June 18.

The meeting of the APPGA was held in the relation to the Winterbourne View report from last December, which resulted in the government mandating that people be moved from institutional care to more personalised settings, with greater opportunities for integration into local communities. Pressinger is an example of how, with the right support package, people with learning disabilities can live successfully in the community.

As an aside, the Winterbourne View report contained some objectives that were supposed to be met by June. I’ve yet to hear an official update on progress with these, but if anyone knows any different, please let me know.

But while it is good to see that a Parliamentary group is listening to people with learning disabilities, this sort of thing needs to happen more often, and in more groups and departments across government, not just the ones that have a specific interest in autism or learning disabilities.

As I said in my blog last week there has been no specific voice for people with learning disabilities in government since Valuing People Now was wound down in 2011 and the feeling persists that they are being neglected by the government.

But by speaking directly and more often to people with learning disabilities – and the people who support them – about their lives, experiences, thoughts and hopes, ministers could dispel that notion, as well as getting a genuine feel for what people need to live the life they want to lead.

Of course, listening to people with learning disabilities would be one thing; taking heed of what they say quite another. The government often talks about personalisation and person-centred services; surely one essential way to achieve this is to listen to the views of people with learning disabilities and let them inform wider policies?

This may sound like an ‘ideal world’ notion, but it’s not; it could, and should, be made to happen.