‘Here To Stay’ – a project to consider the needs of migrant communities for learning disability services.

How quickly time goes by. We are now in the fifth and final year of our ‘Here To Stay’ project. Before that there was a two year bid preparation grant so altogether we have had almost seven years of Big Lottery research funding. Our partners at the University of Wolverhampton are now analysing the results and putting together some guidance for service providers.

What have we discovered? Well, that will be revealed when the project report is published in summer but we have found both exciting, innovative work and, then again, some dispiriting and disappointing experiences. There were times, as I interviewed family carers for the project, that stories were so painful and services failing to meet needs on so many levels that I wondered if anything had been achieved in the world of learning disability and ethnicity in the years I’ve worked on this topic at ARC – some of you may remember ‘Services for All’, the project that began my time at ARC back in 1998.

Whilst we write guidance, go to conferences, attend seminars and develop training their lives carry on, nearly always described to me in terms of struggle and misunderstanding.

Following that, we’ve had the National Learning Disability and Ethnicity Network, the Framework for Action on Ethnicity, the National Advisory Group on Learning Disability and Ethnicity, the National Charter for Inclusion and all the other numerous projects and initiatives that have come along. How quickly time goes by. But as it goes by, measured in our efforts to make changes, are the lives of people with learning disabilities and their family carers from minority communities improving? Whilst we write guidance, go to conferences, attend seminars and develop training their lives carry on, nearly always described to me in terms of struggle and misunderstanding.

And yet there are glimmers of change – interviewing a mother from a Baltic state, now living in a small market town in East Anglia, she described, through an interpreter, how pleased she was that her learning disabled daughter is accessing school and has a support worker who is bilingual. Another family carer described how the place where her son lives (run by an ARC member), always makes her welcome and always tries to meet the family’s cultural needs. Perhaps this change was best illustrated when I bumped into an Asian mother I had interviewed twelve years earlier for ‘Services for All’. Then, although determined to fight for her son, she had felt disempowered and that services did not understand her family. Now, years later, she was keen to tell me that her son was receiving good support, that she was involved in training social care staff and that she was an active participant of the local Partnership Board.

… research has shown that 25% of new entrants to adult learning disability services come from an ethnic minority background. This is an opportunity to help develop good provision for them and in so doing improve services for everyone.

So we can only hope that this new guidance from the ‘Here To Stay’ project will have its own impact. It’s not too late to take part in this project – we still want to interview people who use services about their experiences and we are looking for service providers to talk to us about the guidance. After all, research has shown that 25% of new entrants to adult learning disability services come from an ethnic minority background. This is an opportunity to help develop good provision for them and in so doing improve services for everyone.

Raj Bhopal, in his blog on migration and health for the Oxford University Press points out, ‘Immigration usually means sharing of resources, at least in the short-term, while emigration means more for those left behind and brings hope of acquiring even more from overseas in the long term. This might explain why those most needy of settled immigrant status — asylum seekers, the persecuted or denigrated, and the poor — are most resisted, while those least in need of immigration status, such as the rich, are often welcomed.’ Click here to read more of Raj’s blog.

Soon the opportunities to contribute to this project will be gone. The families I have met will struggle on but hopefully they will experience better outcomes as a result of the work we have done. Please be a part of it – how quickly time goes by…

Further information:

Visit the Here to Stay Website

Email Bridget at Here to Stay: heretostay@arcuk.org.uk