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A Response to Robin Jackson

Author: Jan Walmsley

In this brief article Jan Walmsley, a leading academic in the world of learning disabilities, responds to Robin Jackson's report Who Cares? Robin's report offers a powerful critique of the learning disability social policy and the systems and organisations which have formed that policy over the last few decades. Here Jan shares her views.

I would like to record my thanks to Robin for this powerful and interesting critique. Too often academics are behind the curve, constrained by the need to publish in peer reviewed journals, and also constrained by research funding which is Government dominated. This is a great example of an academic gifting ideas to a wider population. Thank you.

At many levels I agree with you. Charities appear to be utterly failing the people they are there to protect, because they dare say nothing which might offend their paymasters – Local Authorities and other Government agencies.

Inclusion has been commandeered by people whose main aim is reducing state expenditure, so that instead of supporting people to a better life, the term is being cynically used to reduce support in the name of mainstreaming.

It is daft to position the interests of people with learning disabilities as in conflict with those of families. Yes, at times there may be a conflict of interest, but families always have been, and remain, people’s most consistent advocates and defenders.

You cannot regulate quality into a system, quality, real quality, has to come from within, from the staff and, I would argue, also from oversight from people truly interested in the well being of residents and users of services.

Marketisation brings no benefits to anyone except shareholders.  And the way technology is being deployed is frankly, scary.

Inevitably, there are also areas where I disagree, or, at least, would invite further discussion, Robin.

Some parts of your paper read as an advert for Camphill. The research you quote is outdated, and you don’t really develop the implications of this argument. I happen to know a young man who had a pretty rotten time at a Camphill colony, quite abusive. One anecdote doesn’t prove anything, but adds the necessary pinch of salt.

You criticise regulation. I agree that it does not guarantee quality. However, its absence can hardly be condoned. What would you replace it with?

The fundamental question, which your essay begs, is that state provision was not demonstrably better than the provision provided in a market system - hospitals, day centres which led nowhere for a lifetime, purposeless lives. Far be it for me to support marketization, but its predecessor was not something we would want to return to. It is I believe incumbent on thinkers to offer solutions as well as critiques. What would you like to see instead of what we have?

Thanks anyway for a stimulating read, Robin, enough to push me to respond.

Robin Jackson's paper Who Cares? is available to read here.


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

A Response to Robin Jackson © Jan Walmsley 2015.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.