The Valuing People Now team is to be disbanded at the end of March, the government has confirmed. This news comes despite the VPN programme - the strategy that aims to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities - having a year to run. The announcement has been met with dismay from learning disability charities, which are now questioning the future of the strategy. Nevertheless, a Department of Health spokesperson said that the government is still committed to delivering the vision of Valuing People Now, adding that care services minister Paul Burstow will still chair the cross-government Programme Board which includes self-advocate and family carer members and key external partner organisations.

"The programme team has worked hard in recent years to shift power from professionals to people with learning disabilities, to support real local leadership. The annual reports produced by all partnership boards last year demonstrate that local action is happening," the spokesperson said. "The strong foundation which has been established means that delivery will now no longer be led through the centrally funded programme team, which will cease from the end of the current financial year. But local action is not dependent on that and will continue, through local partnership boards and through the cross-government programme board."

But Mark Goldring, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, is worried by the news. "We are disappointed that the government has decided to disband the Valuing People Now central team as it has made an impressive contribution to the policy and practice that supports people with a learning disability," he said. "We are concerned that future arrangements to continue the Valuing People Now strategy are not as robust as they should be. We will now endeavour to support the Government in building on the team's positive work in any way that we can."