People have the right to maximise their full potential through physical, intellectual and emotional development.

The best opportunity to do this is now considered to be through living a full and active life included as part of your local community.

The government states that the way to achieve this inclusion is for learning disabled people to be included in an ordinary life.   This includes education, leisure and recreation, day time opportunities and, where possible, work.   There should be greater access to using mainstream services and less reliance on specialist ones.

Social inclusion and promoting independence are the major themes of the government white paper, ‘Valuing People (2001)’, which sets out the strategy for future care and support for people with a learning disability at the start of the new millennium.

One of the major ways of learning and maximising independence is being allowed to take acceptable risks.   It is nearly impossible for people to develop new skills and knowledge without taking risks, making mistakes and trying again.   Allowing people to do this does not mean removing all precautions for their safety and well-being.   It does mean recognising when we may be over protecting people.   Overprotecting restricts a person’s opportunities and development with a consequent impact on their level of independence.   Overprotection encourages dependence.   It is important that people are encouraged by positive expectations to counteract the negative expectations and stereotypes which have been around for so long.

Independence does not necessarily mean doing everything for yourself; it can include the necessary support to complete an important task you cannot do for yourself.   Independence is just as much about a lifestyle the person has ‘independently’ chosen, their wishes, wants and aspiration.   A person may not be very competent with writing and numbers but it should not stop them accessing a Direct Payment with support...