Study finds risk that spirituality of people with learning disabilities is being ignored


This Scottish study set out to review the evidence on support for spirituality for people with learning disabilities, an area the author describes as relevant but neglected as a topic  and rarely addressed by healthcare professionals.

The author met with a wide range of stakeholders including people with disabilities, local faith groups, service  managers, parents and faith-based professionals,  to pose three questions:

  • Is spirituality a legitimate topic for healthcare professionals bring to clinical contacts?
  • What knowledge do stakeholders have about training issues?
  • Is accessible information available and might communication passports be helpful?.

The author found qualified support for the first question regarding whether spirituality was a legitimate topic to bring to the clinical setting but almost no awareness of availability of training in this area. It was not possible within the confines of the resources available to audit the approach to spirituality of the community teams.

The author suggests however that there is a danger in allowing concerns relating to financial pressures to preclude healthcare staff tapping into a potential source support for meaningful relationships.

Is there a case for community learning disability teams considering the spiritual needs of people with learning disabilities? Wilson C, in Tizard Learning Disability Review 16, 3, 31-40

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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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