Inquiry into learning disabilities hears evidence of ‘unhelpful’ transport providers – while changes at Aylesbury Library could spearhead service improvements

Aylesbury Library could soon become more learning-disabled friendly
Aylesbury Library could soon become more learning-disabled friendly

A council inquiry has made wide ranging recommendations to improve services for adults with learning disabilities in Bucks.

Thought to number around 7,000 in Bucks, adults with learning disabilities generally have poorer health outcomes and worse access to services than non-disabled people.

And now Bucks County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee has published an action plan with 13 recommendations aimed at improving the situation.

It said the council should co-ordinate awareness training for those who transport people with learning disabilities after it heard from users and carers about a ‘lack of learning disability awareness’ amongst bus and taxi drivers. Users ‘gave examples of brusque and unhelpful staff which acted as a disincentive to access transport independently’.

Councillors also questionned whether the Carers Bucks website was ‘working effectively as an information portal specifically for Adults with Learning Disabilities’. It said the authority should ‘evaluate and consider investing in a dedicated Buckinghamshire venue guide for users, working collaboratively with District Councils’.

The committee found ‘that users and carers perceive that there is a gap in provision, particularly in regard to community services for those with less complex needs’. It said the council should ‘review current community provision (not solely Council services) for adults with learning disabilities identifying needs, gaps in services and actions for how these will be met in the future’.

Councillors heard that Aylesbury library could soon offer more services for adults with learning disabilities. Bosses have been in contact with award winning counterparts in Kent. The work there has included increased provision of easy read books, promotion of Assistive Technology, delivery of inclusive events (including arts exhibitions and events), mystery shoppers to check access and visual choice cards which assist librarians in serving customers who may not use spoken language.

The committee also heard that ‘money management and prevention of exploitation were identified as real risks’ to those with learning disabilities. It said the council should ‘work with Local Safeguarding Boards to ensure safeguarding training and support by providers to service users with learning disabilities is provided with a particular focus on the following: avoiding exploitation, money management, relationship management and use of social media’.

Margaret Aston, chairman of the committee’s task and finish group, said: “To really understand what the current situation looks like we talked to service users, their carers and people on the frontline providing services. They told us where there seems to be a lack of services such as evening activities - the success of local providers such as Gateway and Social Link shows there is real demand for this.

“We also found out that there is a lack of awareness about what’s available and accessible to adults with learning disability - there’s no website or ‘what’s on’ guide to easily find out. So it’s difficult to know how much of the issue of service provision is down to poor communication.”