Practice Issues in Sexuality and Learning Disabilities

By Ann Craft | Go to book overview

13

Almost equal opportunities… developing personal relationships guidelines for social services department staff working with people with learning disabilities

David Fruin


INTRODUCTION

1971 was a significant year for people with learning disabilities. In April 1971, the Education (Handicapped Children) Act 1970 swept away the concept that some children because of their handicaps were incapable of being educated: no longer would children be denied local authority educational services because of mental or physical disabilities. The education of all children became the sole responsibility of local authorities and since then the value of the resources and of society's value of such children has gradually increased.

That same month saw the implementation of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 and the setting up of social services departments. These new departments merged the responsibilities of previously separate welfare, mental health and children's departments so that social services for children with learning difficulties were no longer split between two different local authority departments.

In June of that year, Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped was presented to Parliament (DHSS 1971). This important White Paper stated that future service developments should be led by local authorities providing small residential homes and hostels, not isolated like many existing hospitals but in the centres of population, with residents taking part in the life of the community. And in terms of changing people's values, 1971 was particularly significant for the setting up of the Campaign for the Mentally Handicapped with its commitment to values of 'normalisation' (even if the original title now seems dated).

These new responsibilities and new organizations, together with the Better Services document, were important in setting the direction and pace of new services and in encouraging better allocation of resources. Two decades later, a whole generation of children—and

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