Are we valuing people's choices now? Restrictions to mundane choices made by adults with learning difficulties
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
In the UK, Valuing People (Department of Health, 2001, 2010b) has shaped services for people with learning difficulties for the past decade. Promoting choices and independence are two of the four key principles that underpin this White Paper and its subsequent delivery plans. This paper assesses the impact that these changes had on the availability of mundane choices. It draws on empirical evidence from interviews with adults with learning difficulties. First impressions of the findings indicate that individuals are indeed able to make an increased range of decisions. At closer inspection, it does however become apparent that not all of these decisions are based on an infinite spectrum of options. Under the guise of choice-based policy rhetoric, some people with learning difficulties are at times presented with a pre-arranged ‘menu of choices’. For instance, a person may be free to choose activities at their day centre, but they may have limited control when deciding whether to attend the service in the first place. The wider implications that tokenistic choice-making processes have for the development of personal autonomy are highlighted. It is argued that a lack of control in respect to mundane choices is disempowering and leads to learned passivity.