People with learning disabilities want reliability, empathy and non patronising attitude in their support staff


The nature of the relationship between the client and caregiver has been shown to be a key factor in a number of studies. However, there have been few studies looking at the nature of the relationship between people with mild learning disabilities and their caregivers. This study set out to look at this issue in more detail. The researchers used the nominal group technique, a structured method for working with groups which enables the opinions of all group members to be taken into account.

The results suggest that the way in which caregivers offer support is very important to the clients. Issues that emerged as important were that caregivers should be reliable, empathetic and also have a non-patronising attitude.

Interestingly, the particular types of support appeared to be less influential in terms of treatment success. The researchers also found that clients’ preferred ways of receiving help corresponded with basic assumptions found in solution focused brief therapy a type of talking therapy which focuses on the present or the future and on what the client wants to achieve rather than on the specific problem that led them to seek help in the first place.

The authors conclude that the nominal group technique was a useful tool in enabling the opinions and priorities of people with mild learning disabilities to be taken into account when considering the client – caregiver relationship. The results of this study are in line with similar studies of outcomes in children with learning disabilities and adults in the general population receiving support from caregivers.

The views of clients with mild intellectual disabilities regarding their working relationships with caregivers, Roeden J et al, in  Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 398–406

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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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