Right services and supports must be in place for people with a learning disability – O’Neill

Date published: 29 September 2016

That was the key message delivered by Health Minister Michelle O’Neill to delegates at the Association for Real Change (ARC), Conference in Armagh City Hotel.


ARC is a registered charity representing organisations involved in the planning or delivery of support and services for people who have a learning disability. It has members from the statutory, private and voluntary sectors including Mencap, Positive Futures, University of Ulster and the Western HSC Trust.

The Minister said: “It is extremely important that Government listens very carefully to the concerns of people with a learning disability and their carers.

“They must be at the very centre of developing solutions and services for the future.

“Since becoming Health Minister, I have engaged with and listened to the views of those with a learning disability and their families and recognise that, while a lot has been achieved over recent years, there is much more to do to ensure that we have the right services and supports in place to secure the best possible outcomes for people with a learning disability in the North.

In 2002, a Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability services (known as the “Bamford Review”) was commissioned by the then Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The review was chaired by the late Professor David Bamford and was a major, wide-ranging and independent review of the law, policy and service provision affecting people with mental health needs or a learning disability in the north of Ireland.

Two successive cross-departmental action plans were developed. An evaluation of the latest Bamford Action Plan 2012-15 is almost complete.

The evaluation will assess the Executive’s performance against the action plan, evaluate whether life is better for people with a learning disability or mental illness and their families and carers as a result and, importantly, outline the gaps in services as a means to establishing the policy direction for this Assembly session.

After sharing some of the emerging themes from the evaluation, the Minister continued: “Much of what we need to focus on going forward based on the evaluation cuts across several areas of responsibility, confirming the need for a continued cross-departmental approach.

“It is imperative that collectively we continue to improve the services provided to people with a learning disability and their families, to support and empower them to lead good and meaningful lives.”

The Bamford evaluation will be available on the Department’s website when published in late autumn.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Bamford Review, an independent review of mental health and learning disability law, policy and service provision, produced a series of 10 reports between 2005 and 2007 and identified the need for major reform of mental health and learning disability services across Government.  The Bamford reports contained over 300 recommendations.
  2. The first Bamford Action Plan 2009-11 was Government’s response to the Bamford Review.   Responsibility for delivery of the Action Plan spanned 8 Government Departments.  The Plan contained a total of 147 actions, 80 in respect of mental health and 67 for learning disability.
  3. The follow-up Bamford Action Plan 2012-15 was published in March 2013. 
  4. This most recent action plan contains a total of 76 actions under the themes:
    • Promoting positive health, wellbeing and early intervention
    • Supporting people to lead independent lives
    • Supporting carers and families
    • Providing better services to meet individual needs
    • Developing structures and a legislative framework

      ​Responsibility for delivery of the 2012-15 Action Plan spans 8 Government Departments. 

  5. The evaluation of the action plan is being carried out by Department of Health Officials and is expected to be presented to the Executive in November 2016.
  6. Media enquiries about this press release to DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0575, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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