Launch of IAPT Positive Practice Guide for Learning Disabilities

17 September 2015

“People with learning disabilities should have equality in the campaign for good mental health services for all. This guide is the beginning of a journey to transform IAPT services to better support people with learning disabilities. Our aim is that the most vulnerable people in society are supported to lead fulfilling lives” - Jenny Edwards CBE, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation and Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

Download the Positive Practice Guide

It is estimated that 40% of people with learning disabilities experience mental health problems. This is higher than the rest of the population, yet, despite this, their access to mental health and talking therapy services is often limited.

Christine-Koulla Burke- FPLD/ Access to IAPT Programme lead, and one of the authors of the report, said:

“We know that people with learning disabilities who may need support with their mental health do not receive prompt and timely access to mental health services so access to IAPT would go a long way in promoting better mental health. This guide sets out some practical steps that IAPT practitioners can take to ensure equality of access.”

Today, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD), in partnership with National IAPT- NHS England, is launching the Positive Practice Guide for Learning Disability. The guide is informed by a three-year project run by FPLD in partnership with Kings College, London and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and funded by the Department of Health. It is aimed at those who work in, commission, or refer to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services. It provides useful information regarding how best to support people with learning disabilities to access their local IAPT service, including numerous practical examples of how to make reasonable adjustments to achieve this.

The teams involved in the fpld programme developed reasonable adjustments and different models of working that greatly impacted on their clinical practice when working with people with learning disabilities.

  • Setting up a flagging system at the referral stage to alert practitioners that the person referred has literacy difficulties or a learning disability and require reasonable adjustments.
  • The development of pathways to direct someone presenting with depression or anxiety to the most appropriate service.
  • Easy-read resources.
  • Involving family members in therapy and in homework tasks.
  • Ensuring that they were able to keep track of numbers of people with learning disabilities seen and recovery rates on National Data Set.

All participants reported that some of the reasonable adjustments to their clinical practice had increased their efficacy with all their clients.

The IAPT programme is uniquely placed within the mental healthcare pathway to support people with learning disabilities who present with depression and anxiety. There is evidence that people with learning disabilities can benefit from the therapies offered by IAPT services. This guide will support the skilled IAPT practitioners to be able to identify and provide the reasonable adjustments required for people with learning disabilities to be able to access their services.

"Many people with learning disabilities are already benefiting from IAPT service we hope that this guide will support equity of access for all" Christine-Koulla Burke.