Over inclusive definition of vulnerability may limit life experiences of people with learning disabilities


Protection of vulnerable adults has received increasing attention in recent years. This study set out to identify the views of support staff about what vulnerability means and how this might impact on their practice. The author used data from a previous study in which support staff views had been explored.

The author used semi-structured interviews to explore the views of respondents.

The findings suggested that most informants felt that people with learning disabilities were all vulnerable. This definition of vulnerability allowed staff authority to take protective measures therefore to ensure safety.

The author concludes that this “desire to introduce protective measures however may result in people with learning disabilities being denied the right to self-determination, thereby limiting their enjoyment of some life experiences and lessening the excitement of life that others take for granted.”

What does vulnerability mean? , Parley F., in  British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 266–276

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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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