Seminar 3

Seminar 3, 19th September, 2013

Towards a contextually-sensitive landscape of care: new policy dialogues



This seminar is entitled Towards a contextually-sensitive landscape of care: new policy dialogues. It is the third in a series of three, each of which is designed to ‘rethink learning disability’ through rather different if overlapping lenses.  The first seminar addressed the academic fields of inquiry into learning disability, fostering an open-handed ‘conversation’ between specialists in different of these fields (biomedicine, psychology, psychiatry, history, human geography, sociology, etc.) and using a ‘workshop’ format based on short position statements and sustained open-ended discussion.  The second seminar heard from voices of experience and encounter, meaning people with learning disabilities themselves as well as their carers and supporters, through the medium of short theatrical sketches (created by Inform Theatre, a repertory group of learning disabled actors) and associated activities and discussions.  Themes and findings emerging from a synthesis of the first two seminars will now be used to animate the agenda for the third seminar, the purpose of which is to explore new policy dialogues around policy and practice with respect to learning disability in contemporary Scotland, UK and beyond.


The intention is to invite a wide range of people representing different bodies and interests in the learning disability policy landscape, including representatives from the Scottish Government, from local government, from relevant NGOs and from a variety of third sector support, advocacy and campaigning organisations.  Also invited will be a few academic researchers who work very closely with policy-makers and third sector organisations, notably individuals with experience of the ‘observatory’ work that is central to monitoring (and sometimes evaluating) the ground-level implementation of policy frameworks.  In addition, a small number of participants from the first two seminars will be invited to the third seminar, thereby creating a measure of direct continuity between the events.  The likely number of participants at the third seminar will not exceed 30 at absolute maximum – it will be by invitation only – and the aim will be to facilitate an intimate occasion conducive to discussion, reflection, speculation and, where appropriate, critical commentary.


We would hence suggest the following as specific objectives for the third seminar:

  • Create the opportunity for open, honest and reflective debate about the current and changing learning disability policy landscape, with the hope of      looking behind/beyond the (necessarily) simplified positions often taken in more public presentations.
  • Specifically, and related to the above, to allow discussion of the very recent shift in Scottish learning disability policy from the framework set by The Same as You?(2000-2013) to the new framework set by The Keys to Life (2013); and, in so doing, to wonder about the distinctiveness of the Scottish ‘way’ in dealing with learning disability.
  • In the process, also to consider the different actors within this policy landscape, asking about centre-local relations (between national and local government) and about the alliances and divergences between governmental and different third sector organisations and stake-holders.
  • Permit the team who have organised this seminar series to initiate discussion      around their emerging ideas, based on the previous two seminars, about a  ‘contextual model’ of learning disability – demanding constant alertness to the specificities of time, space and context – as a possible sensitising device in learning disability policy and practice.
  • Open a space for discussion about the role played by the English ‘Observatory’ for learning disability, notably in relation to policy and practice, and then about the possible role to be played by the just-inaugurated Scottish ‘Observatory’ for learning disability.
  • More broadly, to discuss the possibilities for brokering between academia and policy with respect to learning disability, and to set down markers for what contributions might usefully be made by academic researchers to the learning      disability policy landscape (and what kinds of relationships, collaborations and partnerships might be envisaged as mutually beneficial).


To these ends, we wish to combine some conventional ‘talking heads’ presentations – and we have specific thoughts about who we will invite to present and on what subjects – with a round-table discussion format.  In terms of presentations, we are envisaging shortish statements (c.25 minutes maximum) which might offer the following:

  • An informed, reflective view from the Scottish Government about recent      mutations in the Scottish learning disability policy landscape
  • An informed, reflective view from local government about the challenges and potentialities of working with learning disability locally
  • An informed, reflective view from someone well-placed to appreciate the      multitude of different ‘actors’ – networked or not, allied or not – bearing upon this policy landscape.
  • A report back from the team who have organised the seminar series on their      ‘contextual model’ of learning disability and its possible relevance to this policy landscape
  • A report on the workings of the English ‘Observatory’ for learning disability, particularly addressing its links to this policy landscape in England
  • A report on the initial attempts to establish a Scottish ‘Observatory’ for learning disability, asking about its hopes for being able to add value to this policy landscape in Scotland

The idea is to intersperse pairs or clusters of presentations with round-table discussions, deliberately eschewing the ‘flip-chart’ and ‘wish-list’ style of response in favour of a more sustained, dialogical approach to debating in detail the issues raised by the presentations (and maybe others besides).  The hope here would be to dig below the surfaces of the issues, and where possible to end up debating more deeply the ‘first principles’ of policy and practice in the domain of learning disability.  The subsidiary issue would be to consider how academic research can speak to such ‘first principles’ (as well as being a source of data-mining, data-building and analysis/interpretation).


Consistent with our practice with the first two seminars, the intention is to create a full audio-record of the whole event, possibly with some visual record, which will be edited – more or less lightly, depending on the technical quality – and made available on a seminar WordPress site. We hope that you will be happy to be recorded and for your contributions to be made available in this manner, but with the understanding that any participant will be able to request the removal of their comments/images from the record (or, indeed, not be recorded at all in the first place).  We realise that, for some in the policy arena, there may be sensitivities here, and we will completely respect any participant’s wish to protect such sensitivities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s