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Joe’s Soapbox

author icon author icon 07/06/2023 author icon Joe's Soapbox

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the All-Wales Strategy.

The strategy was published in 1983.

The strategy came about as a result of the Ely Hospital Scandal of 1967.

The News of the World newspaper reported that people with learning disabilities were being abused.

It highlighted a lot of problems and injustice in the long stay hospitals.

Things such as:

  • Patients sharing the same bath water.
  • Patients sharing false teeth.
  • Patients not always wearing their own clothes.

Cardiff and Newport People First made a fabulous film about it.

It was called ‘Memories of Ely’.

Here is a link to the film.

Memories of Ely Hospital by Cardiff and Newport People First – YouTube

Some of the members who made the film lived in Ely Hospital.

The All-Wales Strategy was ahead of its time.

It put Wales ahead of all of the other countries in Europe.

The All-Wales Strategy was important because it recognised that:

  • Learning Disability was not a medical condition and people with learning disabilities should not be in a hospital.
  • People with learning disabilities should have equal access to their own communities.
  • People with learning disabilities should have meaningful things to do during the day.
  • People with learning disabilities should have access to education and employment.

Because of the All-Wales Strategy the long stay hospitals closed down.

And people with learning disabilities now live in their local communities.

Some live in residential care services.

And some live with support in their own homes.


Whilst the All-Wales Strategy has been successful in many ways.

There are still some things it has not achieved.

Most people with learning disabilities still do not have person centred lives.

They are still reliant on what their services can offer them rather than what they want for the future.

Including a good life.

The people who use the services are more visible in society.

But many still do not have meaningful day time activities to do.

Most day centres are not helping people with learning disabilities into employment.

Very few people with learning disabilities have a paid job.

People with learning disabilities are also less likely to have opportunities for education.

The rules of residential services can prevent people with learning disabilities from having sexual relationships.

Although residential services are much better than the long stay hospitals it could be argued that many of them are still a form of institution.

There are still abuse scandals in learning disability services.

Scandals that the media are exposing.

Because they were missed by the paid inspectorate.

The enquiries into those scandals find very similar problems that the Report on Ely did in 1969.

And makes very similar recommendations for change.

But the mistakes keep happening.

We have not completely achieved what the strategy set out to do.

But we have made a start.

It is now time to move on.

And make more progress.

It is time to stop writing plans and new strategies.

And make sure the ones we have work.

This won’t happen until we make the way services are commissioned more flexible.

To meet individual needs.

All Wales People First are hoping to start a project on this.

It is also important that we use money better.

We still fund services when people have a crisis.

Rather than spend less money-making sure people don’t hit a crisis in the first place.

We have too many people in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATU’s) and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU’s) who should not be there.

They are there because the services they need can’t be provided.

Even though it costs more to keep them there than the service they need.

And is not good for their wellbeing.

During Learning Disability week, it is important that we are positive about the way things can change for the better.

But we must also realise that we still don’t have the normal patterns of life described in the All-Wales Strategy.

We need to keep pushing.

Wales did not have self-advocates in 1983.

It does now.

So, let’s stay united and work together.

And make Wales a place where people with Learning Disabilities can feel valued and included.


1 Comment

  1. Debra Cooper

    I am a Green Party member, and I am convener of a group writing a new Disability Policy.
    The majority of our group members have physical disabilities and/or mental health disabilities.
    We are underrepresented in the Green Party by people with Learning Disabilities.
    If you have any Green Party members, or interested people who would like to contribute to writing the Learning aspect of the policy, could you please give them my contact details.

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