A multi-disciplinary group, led by the Minister with responsibility for persons with disabilities, the Honourable Neil F. Costa MP, and the Care Agency, has completed a review of services available for persons with learning disabilities.
The Working Group, which includes officials within the fields of Education, Health and Social Care, conducted the review with the aim of making recommendations for developments throughout the current services to best meet the needs of our community.
The review has been conducted in close collaboration with service users and their loved ones, who have provided invaluable feedback to the Working Group. One of the issues identified by the Working Group was the fact that Paediatric Health Services ceased service delivery at the age of 16, including service delivery to children with disabilities. A comprehensive multi-disciplinary team typically supports children with disabilities, consisting of medical consultants, educators, and other allied health practitioners. This virtually disappears on their 16th birthday, when they transition to working with a General Practitioner at the Primary Care Centre.
The opening of the Children’s Health Centre will assist in beginning to resolve this issue, with the age of paediatric services for children with learning disabilities and additional needs being increased up to the age of 18. Amongst some of the new services that will be delivered, there will be an increase in the therapy provided by allied health professionals. Once operational, the Centre will house numerous services for children with learning disabilities, providing a single point of access of services.
The Disability Review Working Group also found that respite for parents of children with learning disabilities was dependent on resources deployed from the Care Agency’s Children’s Residential Services and raised the need to ring-fence a social worker who worked solely with children and their families. As a result, the Care Agency will employ an additional children’s social worker to work exclusively with children with learning disabilities and support families through the many processes they often encounter when accessing services for their children. Additionally, the budget for respite for children will also be increased to ensure children and their families continue to receive adequate support services in this respect.
In the case of adults with learning disabilities or additional needs, the Working Group identified that additional resources were required to support adults in accessing meaningful activities, so they could participate in community events. An increase in budget has, therefore, been agreed to provide additional resources and address this need. Young adults do not always want to be chaperoned by parents or family members when participating in community events; however, because of their vulnerability, adults with learning disabilities require a certain level of supervision. As a result, the Care Agency will also employ an additional social worker who will work solely with adults with learning disabilities and their families. This social worker will work with the teams at St Bernadette’s Resource Centre and Dr Giraldi Home, liaising with the GHA, Employment and Training Department, and the Housing Department when required.
With adults now enjoying better health care and living longer, there has been an increase in attendance at St Bernadette’s Resource Centre. The Centre now offers services to a wide range of individuals, both in terms of age and learning disability. The review has also considered the need for the provision of certain therapies delivered by allied health professionals to this Centre. This will also form part of future developments and collaboration between the Care Agency and GHA.
Natalie Tavares, the Care Agency’s CEO (ag) said that the Learning Disability Working Group will continue to work diligently with our service users and their loved ones, and the different associations, to ascertain how we could better meet the needs of children and adults with disabilities and additional needs. “We will continue working on further developments and ensure that we champion for some of the most vulnerable in our community”.
Minister for Health, Care and Justice, the Honourable Neil F. Costa MP added: “I am very pleased with the work that has been carried since the commencement of this important review. We are at the initial stages of delivering on new developments and continue to work on improvements in order to deliver services of the very highest standards. Crucially, the review has provided a central forum for different organisations that work with children or adults with learning disabilities and additional needs, to collaborate and recommend reforms to these vital services. I must commend Natalie Tavares and all of our Care and Social Workers and all other professionals for their excellent work.”