Let’s Keep the Options OpenType: Blogs
Published on: 17th January 2019
By Andrew Plant, registered manager at Milltown Camphill community.
In 2017 Camphill Scotland commissioned an independent research consultancy company – Why Research – to explore how Camphill Scotland and the Camphill communities are viewed by key stakeholders.
They found that Camphill is highly valued for our friendly community lifestyle, strong sense of community, safe and secure environment, the dedicated staff and volunteers who are caring and well trained and the good range of choice and activities and opportunities to learn new skills.
the qualitative data suggests that local authorities are not proactive in searching out information on Camphill communities and it is likely to be parents/carers/family members who will prompt local authority consideration of other external providers
Could this wariness reflect a wider national policy that promotes one model of housing and support over another?
False dichotomy in housing model options
There have been numerous reports in recent years about housing and support for people with a learning disability. Some of these reports argue that the best way forward is normalisation, inclusion and independent living in the community while others identify the need for more shared tenancies and group living situations in order to overcome social isolation and loneliness.
In my view, this reflects a false dichotomy between what is called ‘residential care’ and what is called ‘living in the community’. This dichotomy is reflected in the national discourse and also in commissioning decisions that determine where people with learning disabilities live and the kind of support that they receive. On the one hand, group situations – sometimes referred to as ‘congregate care’ – are regarded with some suspicion. They can be seen as institutional and there have been alarming stories of neglect and abuse in such settings. There is also the presumption that such placements are driven by a cost cutting imperative in that it is seen as the cheaper option.
In dismissing group living situations too easily there is the danger that we overlook both the value of peer support found when people share their lives together and also the social theory of homophily – the fact that people tend to want to be with people similar to themselves. It must also be borne in mind that the population of people with learning disabilities is not a cohesive and homogenous group, all with similar needs and wishes. The argument therefore should not be in favour of one type of provision over another but for a range of provisions and a meaningful choice as to the best kind of housing and support for each individual.
The Scottish Government’s 2013 Learning Disability strategy, Keys to Life, emphasises that a range of choices should be available to people with learning disabilities. It clearly values the independent living model but also recognises some of its limitations. It also makes a positive reference to the Camphill communities.
It is vital that real choices remain open to people with learning disabilities and their families when trying to find the most appropriate form of housing and support that best suits their individual needs and wishes.
Living in a Camphill community and taking part in purposeful and productive work in that community can all be positive choices with positive outcomes, as our recent research findings so clearly demonstrate.