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Waiting at the Traffic Lights
There’s been a lot of work done over the last twenty years or more to promote social inclusion, getting people with learning disabilities and mental health problems to have a greater stake in society, in terms of employment, leisure and education.
Promoting inclusion – fighting exclusion
Traditional models for promoting these activities have often been around creating specific services for people, such as mental health day centres. However much of the recovery movement in mental health has been about getting people into the mainstream of activities that everyone enjoys. A typical scenario might look like this. The local health and social services authority decides to close a local day centre. They say that Service Users will benefit because they will now be encouraged to go to their local leisure centre and adult college instead. This may well have happened in your area so you will know the arguments for and against. On the one hand the day centre provides a safe environment, can be a source of support for families, and gets people out of the house. The counter argument is that it promotes ‘ghettoisation’ and prevents the recovery process. As with many arguments, the way forward lies somewhere in the middle.
Thinking about the traffic lights
Peter Bates and the National Development Team for Inclusion have done a lot of work to promote social inclusion and illustrate their thinking by using the analogy of traffic lights which provides a really useful way of thinking about how services should be organised. So very briefly a red service could be a traditional day centre or drop in centre exclusively for people with a mental health problem. A green service would be a leisure centre perhaps promoting a ‘passport to leisure’ encouraging take up of activities by people with mental disorder alongside other centre users. Somewhere in the middle might be an amber service, a kind of half-way house. For example, a local college might run a discrete course for people with mental health problems.
The way that the National Development Team develop the traffic light way of thinking is not to say red is bad and green is good, rather that we should try where we can to move from red to green, perhaps via amber, but remember that there can be lot of positives in the red for a significant group of people. I think using the traffic lights system can be a good way for you as a care home or domiciliary care provider to think about the activities you promote for service users. Read the excellent ‘accidents at the traffic lights’ and you’ll see what I mean!