Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Head of learning disability charity calls for support to focus on what people can do

Lucy Hurst-Brown Brandon Trust The current system of allocating social care support based on what people can’t do needs to be turned on its head, according to the chief executive of a learning disability charity.

Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive of Brandon Trust, believes that allocating support according to need, known as the deficiency model, is counterproductive and not cost-effective. Instead, an ‘asset-based approach’ must be adopted, directing resources towards building on what people can do and what is already available to them.

Hurst-Brown made this call in The Future of Disability, a collection of essays published at the Labour Party Conference by think-tank Demos in partnership with the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

In her essay entitled ‘From Patients to Invisible Citizens’, Hurst-Brown said: “People with learning disabilities have consistently been perceived and treated as needy and passive recipients of services that only experts know how to design and deliver.

“An entire industry comprising government departments, academic institutions, charities, philanthropic trusts, think tanks, social enterprises, private companies, social landlords and social businesses has been built and is sustained on the premise that people with learning disabilities are in need. Indeed, this ‘deficiency model’ dictates that the more people with learning disabilities can’t do, the more the organisations will receive in funding.

“But an ‘asset-based’ approach works from the principle that every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Support can be shaped around what people can do, rather than what they can’t. Taking this approach means resources will be far more effective if they’re used to help people contribute to their own community, often representing much greater value for money.

“Organisations like Brandon Trust must make it our mission to get out of the way of the people we support. Ultimately we need to be looking to do ourselves out of a job, because the measure of our success should be the level to which people are integrated into their community. Of course, people have very different levels of challenges and support requirements, but the more they are part of an active community and social network, the less their demand for support will be.”

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