At Sense, we believe everyone with complex disabilities should be able to access good quality and person-centered health and social care services. An essential part of this is ensuring that health and care staff know how to support people with complex needs when they meet or care for them.
There are really simple steps that can make health and social care accessible, such as allowing more time for someone to understand what’s been said to them, or identifying that someone might have a learning disability or autism and considering how best to support them to feel safe and communicate.
Health and social care staff don’t consistently get training on this, and so we welcomed the news last week that the Government has launched a consultation on new mandatory learning disability and autism awareness training for all health and social care staff in publicly funded services.
The training is being developed in response to campaigners who have highlighted the issues faced by individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism. A report by Mencap found that there are 1,200 avoidable deaths of people with a learning disability each year as a result of poor training and awareness amongst health and social care professionals
This consultation seeks to develop the best possible learning disability and autism awareness training for NHS and social care staff. It asks what the training should include, how it should be delivered, and how people with learning disabilities and/or autism should be involved.
The consultation proposes that all staff in all publicly funded health and social care services must receive at least basic awareness training on how to best support individuals with autism and/or a learning disability. From receptionists at GP surgeries to learning disability nurses, everyone will receive the appropriate level of training so that they can best support individuals with learning disabilities or autism.
A crucial step towards individuals with learning disabilities and autism being able to get the right support is the Accessible Information Standard. The Accessible Information Standard (AIS) was created in collaboration with people who use services, Sense, Action on Hearing Loss, RNIB and other partners. It requires all publicly funded adult social care and health providers, including GPs, hospitals, and care provided by social care services, to identify and meet the information and communication needs of those who use their services. This includes providing letters and information in a format that disabled people can access, like Easy Read or braille and meeting communication support needs, like providing a British Sign Language interpreter.
Although the AIS has been in place since 2016, unfortunately many NHS and social care services are still failing to meet the accessible information and communication support needs of people with complex disabilities. Therefore, we are very pleased to see that the AIS will be included in the new training.
We hope that by learning about the AIS, staff will better understand the importance of meeting information and communication needs. The AIS means that disabled people can be more independent in making decisions and expressing choices about their care and treatment.
At Sense, we know how important it is to get communication right for each individual with complex disabilities. So we will be sharing our experience of providing communication support during the consultation. However, it is really important that the consultation is shaped by the experiences and perspectives of individuals with learning disabilities and autism.
We would like to encourage individuals with autism and/or learning disabilities, their families and carers, to share their experiences of accessing health and social care support. What is important to you when you are visiting your GP, hospital or receiving care and support at home or in the community? What could health and social care professionals do to make your experience positive and help you access the support you need?
For more information on the training and to submit your thoughts visit the consultation website. The deadline for giving your feedback is 12th April. The Department of Health and Social Care have produced information about the consultation in Easy Read which you can access here.