Learning disability services have come a long way since the 1980s. At that time I was involved with the closure of the Forest Hospital, where adults with learning disabilities lived in long-term residential care.
While in its day, this provided security for individuals in which to live, it did not allow them the prospect of having a key to their own front door or to live within a community setting.
We have now moved on a long way. Shared Lives Plus is an example of where we believe care for people with learning disabilities best sits – in the community with care delivered by the community. This scheme lets people with learning disabilities live a more fulfilled life in a family home.
Most significant among our changes introduced is a partnership scheme called A Place to Live. This project, which was recently completed, was a large-scale scheme to develop a range of new supported accommodation including small independent flats in West Sussex for people who have learning disabilities and need 24-hour support.
A recent review of the scheme suggests that people are now much happier because the new flats have been designed specifically around meeting their needs and they have more personalised care arrangements, which means they can make more choices about how they run their lives with their carers.
The Strawford Centre, in Blatchford Close, Horsham, is another example of fulfilling this philosophy of living and working within a community setting.
The way the centre operates has changed over the years and now supports independent living; helping people find work, such as gardening and maintenance in Horsham Park, or by maintaining the hanging baskets at some of our local railway stations.
Finally we have developed a new service called Safe Place, which provides a safe haven for adults with learning disabilities if they feel harassed or bullied in a town centre. This scheme works in cooperation with local retailers and Sussex Police.
All of these services demonstrate how people with learning disabilities can live a fuller life through the support of the community in West Sussex.
West Sussex County Councillor Peter Cathcpole (Con, Holbrook)