Mental health services users with learning disabilities from minority ethnic community in South London less positive about experiences


When the ‘Valuing People’ white paper was published in 2001, there were a series of supporting papers that were published at the same time covering in more detail, issues that were pertinent to developing and delivering person centred services. One of these looked at ethnicity and people with learning disabilities. The issue was also clearly raised in valuing People Now, the implementation papers. These showed that people with learning disabilities from black and minority ethnic communities continued to experience what was termed ‘double discrimination’ in light of their learning disability and ethnicity. This double discrimination can be compounded by additional mental health problems.

This study set out to look at the experience of people with learning disabilities from different ethnic communities of using mental health services.

The authors set out to look at whether there were differences in the experiences of people with learning disabilities and mental health problems from two ethnic communities in South London.

The researchers worked with 32 people with learning disabilities who were users of a specialist mental health service and used a two-round Delphi process, a forecasting method developed in social care research to help identify and prioritise issues for decision making

They asked White British and Black or Black British service users from a specialist community-based mental health service for adults with learning disabilities to complete a questionnaire and rated statements about the participants’ experiences on a Likert scale which measures levels of agreement and disagreement with questionnaire items. The areas the questionnaire covered included such things as:

  • satisfaction with care,
  • staff members’ attitudes,
  • cultural awareness
  • level of support

24 of the 32 participants (75%) completed both rounds of the Delphi consultation.

What they found was a good deal of consensus for 20 items in the White group and 5 items in the Black group.

They found that that all the responses that reached consensus were positive about the services being received. However, participants from the Black group were less positive about a range of experiences, including the use of medication.

They conclude from the study that the Delphi consultation was successfully completed by the people with learning disabilities from the two ethnic groups, and whilst broad consensus on positive experiences of services was reached in the White group, this was not the case for Black participants.

Experiences of mental health services by people with intellectual disabilities from different ethnic groups: a Delphi consultation, Bonell, S et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 902–909

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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