One Year On: An Update from Learning Disability Cymru By Dr Rachel Ann Jones C.Psychol AFBPsS, National Learning Disability Programme Lead

2020 has been a year like no other that we have known.

If we wind the clock back twelve months, our newly established team was undertaking a series of engagement events with hundreds of individuals connected to LD services across Wales. Sharon, Ruth, Bethany, David, Paula and myself travelled the length and breadth of Wales to meet you all.

Thank you to all of you who attended and contributed at these events. The aim was to promote and collaborate on the biggest programme of work that learning disability services had experienced in over a generation.

We wanted these events to establish key relationships to enable delivery in respects to the health actions required in the Improving Lives Programme. I can vividly recall the palpable energy, the innovative ideas, the difficult questions and ultimately the determination to make a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities in Wales. 

At these events we formed connections and gathered rich data which we then planned to utilise in the development of our work plan. The information from these events was also to be the focal point of the inaugural Welsh LD Leaders Collaborative in March 2020.

Then along came COVID19.

As part of Public Health Wales (PHW), our priority became the national COVID19 response. The Leaders Collaborative was cancelled. Our Learning Disabilities programme was paused within Welsh Government and not restarted until later in the year. At which point it was refocused and of course still operating within the confines of the ever changing COVID19 landscape.

Throughout the pandemic, staff from the team have been redeployed to a variety of COVID related roles, wherever possible advocating for and highlighting the needs of people with Learning Disabilities. We have also been able to progress aspects of the work plan, including, crucially, the Health Profile work, a once for Wales, evidence based, person centred, patient safety tool, valuable for adults and children. We have been reviewing and reporting the mortality data for our population. We have also produced a series of bilingual self-help booklets developed to support people with learning disability during the COVID19 outbreak, to talk about their feelings and make plans for staying well.

This and other work is now online and we encourage you to take a look at our website. This will be a key place to keep updated in respects to our activity and information on our range of events and distribution lists.

We are getting in contact now, twelve months on from our initial engagement, to offer assurance that work is still taking place in respects to our programme of work. COVID19 may have altered our course somewhat but the energy and determination you shared with us to make a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities in Wales remains strong. Please get in contact with us.