City ‘pulls plug on partnership board’


newslatestPeople with learning difficulties fear they have lost an important way to have their voices heard, after their local council pulled the plug on an important multi-agency body.

Learning disability partnership boards were set up as a result of the Labour government’s 2001 learning difficulties white paper, Valuing People.

Since then they have provided a way to break down some of the disabling barriers faced by people with learning difficulties, with board members taken from local agencies and including people with learning difficulties themselves.

But members of York People First, which is run by people with learning difficulties, have now been told that the city’s partnership board has “folded”.

York Valuing People Partnership Board, set up in 2001, aimed to ensure that people with learning difficulties had “equal access to all services and facilities”.

Becca Cooper, chair of York People First, said: “We have heard that the partnership board has gone. It has folded. They have taken away people’s voices.”

She added: “We feel like we have not had a voice for a long time. It has been controlled by other people, and Valuing People said that all people with learning difficulties should be heard. It feels like professionals have grabbed the power”.

Cooper said it also felt like York People First had been a “token” presence at the last few meetings.

She said: “I am angry, annoyed. I think it is disgusting.”

City of York Council claims the board is not being scrapped but that it is “reviewing the partnership to try and get a stronger voice for learning disabilities”.

A council spokeswoman said: “The meetings have been postponed during the review so we can work to a more effective partnership with a smaller core membership.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “There is no statutory guidance on learning disability partnership boards, but we do expect councils to ensure that they have the mechanisms in place to support people with learning disabilities and make sure that their voices are heard.”

Earlier this month, York People First described how disabled people who receive direct payments to pay for their support had been forced to close their bank accounts and transfer their funding to new accounts controlled by the city council.

York council is now able to spy on every spending decision a service-user makes, and intervene if they see expenditure they do not like showing up in their new account.

24 October 2013