The first Independent Specialist Care awards

On 15 March 2011 I attended the first Independent Specialist Care awards, launched in London, to reward the innovative work being done in the independent sector to improve the lives of people receiving specialist care.

I was honoured to be asked to judge an award at the event which was sponsored by Laing and Buisson. The award was for ‘Innovation’ - a category recognising cutting edge advancements in social care services for young adults. Amidst tough competition, Sue Hatton was given the Innovation award for the development of the Autism Profile Assessment Tool. This tool helps staff to understand each service user as an individual and the Autism Research Centre at Birmingham University have concluded that it can “..result in reduction in anxieties and behavioural difficulties from service users”.

The development of new tools such as the Autism Profile Assessment Tool will really help those young people with learning disabilities, have a better chance of being listened to and understood at an earlier age. Early intervention seems key to ensuring these young people are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential and be supported to make meaningful contributions to society.

If young people are not assessed properly and their needs not identified and met, they can fall through the net at mainstream schools and miss out on the support that they need to develop. Statistics show that ‘20-30% of offenders in the criminal justice system have learning disabilities or difficulties’ (Loucks, 2007). This over representation of people with learning disabilities or difficulties in the criminal justice system shows that more preventative work is needed to address the needs of these people.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is currently keen to address this imbalance and is involved in the evaluation of a Mencap project called Raising Your Game, which targets those young people who are at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. This project provides group support and training for these young people and encourages them to focus on positive activities. It is hoped that, with continued intervention and more accurate assessment procedures, these young people will no longer be put at such a disadvantage and will have positive goals for the future.

Let’s hope the Independent Specialist Care Awards will be back next year to highlight the achievements of those working to ensure a fair and exciting future for people with learning disabilities and specialist care needs!