Background to Day Opportunities

Why Community-Based Day Services?

“Equal Lives: Review of Policy and Services for People with a Learning Disability in Northern Ireland” (September 2005)

In October 2002 the Department of Health, Social services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) commissioned an independent review of law, policy and service provision affecting people with mental health needs or learning disability in Northern Ireland. This became known as the Bamford Review/Equal Lives.

The Equal Lives Review was based on 5 core values which should underpin, all service developments:

  • Citizenship: People with a learning disability are individuals first and foremost and each has a right to be treated as an equal citizen.
  • Social Inclusion: People with a learning disability are valued citizens and must be enabled to use mainstream services and be fully included in the life of the community.
  • Empowerment: People with a learning disability must be enabled to actively participate in decisions affecting their lives.
  • Working Together: Conditions must be created where people with a learning disability, families and organisations work well together in order to meet the needs and aspirations of people with a learning disability.
  • Individual Support: People with a learning disability will be supported in ways that take account of their individual needs and help them to be as independent as possible.

“Twenty-first century services will need to attune to a changed perception of what it means to have a learning disability. Many people with this disability are capable of doing more themselves. Their needs and aspirations cannot be met solely by health and social services – they need support from education, housing, leisure, employment agencies and others.” (Equal Lives; 1.16)

(We Must Ensure) “…that men and women with a learning disability are able to actively participate in their communities and (are) afforded opportunities to meet their aspirations for meaningful day-time activities, friendships, employment, education and leisure…” (Equal Lives; 5.1)

Widening Choice and Opportunities” A Strategy for Future Day Care Support Services for People with a Learning Disability: 2007-2011 (Northern Health and Social Care Trust; 2007)

In November 2007 the Northern Trust with the Commissioners, launched its Day Care strategy Widening Choice and Opportunities the Equal Lives Recommendations. This strategy aimed to widen choice and opportunities for persons with a learning disability in the Northern Trust area through a major expansion in the day opportunities available to them within community settings by creating :

  • Work opportunities with the development of Supported Employment services;
  • Vocational training opportunities through the development of social enterprise services;
  • Opportunities for people to learn new skills through the development of further educational services;
  • Opportunities for people to meet and to make friends through the development of Base (“Drop-In”) Centres.

These services have all been developed across the Trust and operate through the Northern Trust’s Day Opportunities Programme.

Underpinning these services is a belief that;

  • An expectation that people will have a “package” of services in different locations rather than attending one centre for five days a week.
  • An expectation that people with learning disabilities need to do more for themselves rather than being looked after.
  • An expectation that people with learning disabilities will avail of services provided for others in the community rather than requiring special assistance and services.” (Widening Choice and Opportunities, p26).
  • As a result of this expansion in community-based services through the Day Opportunities Programme, now only approximately 50% of adults with a learning disability in the Northern Trust receive day services in buildings through Adult Centre Provision with approximately 30% having their day services through community-based packages and the remaining 20% receiving a combination of buildings-based and community-based provision. (2009).
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