Northern Ireland’s chief social worker, Sean Holland, has welcomed a new workshop and resource kit to equip people with a learning disability with the skills that they need to make informed choices and decisions about their lives.
Speaking at the launch of 'The Capacity, Consent & Decision Making Workshop' project Mr Holland (pictured) said: “We need to listen to the views and wishes of adults with a learning disability and we need to acknowledge and act upon their choices.”
“We are continually looking at new ways to improve the lives of service users and this project will go a little way to help make that happen. The workshops will help support people with learning disabilities to understand decision-making, to develop skills and to appreciate their rights to make their own decisions.
“I make decisions every day. People may complain about my decisions or tell me it was a stupid decision but the bottom line is no-one tries to tell me I can’t make my own decisions or steps in and makes them for me. However, that is all too often not the case for people with learning disability."
He continued: “People with a learning disability often struggle to have their views about their lives heard, acknowledged and acted upon. We forget to ask what someone with a learning disability wants. We can assume they don’t understand and that we know best. We can wrap them up in cotton-wool and we do not allow them to make mistakes. This workshop will help challenge those thoughts. This workshop appreciates the rights of those with a disability to make a decision.”
Each complete workshop resource kit is designed for group work and to encourage service users to engage in conversation about vital concepts such as decision-making, capacity and consent. Fun and interactive, the workshop-in-a-box kit contains everything that a staff member needs to deliver the workshop. There are guides included for staff to help them to deliver the workshop - a training DVD, workshop script and workshop guidance.
Concluding, Mr Holland said: “I hope organisations that deliver services to people with a learning disability in every Trust area will avail of this initiative and request their own resource kit. Each kit is a treasure chest of props that provide visual cues to prompt discussion about informed consent and best interests in different scenarios.
“As well as teaching decision making skills, it will also prepare service users and staff for the Mental Capacity Act, which is ground breaking legislation, a first worldwide in its fusing of mental health and mental capacity law. These workshops will help to understand some of the difficult concepts in the Act.”