Practical new resource launched today supports the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities

VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) and NDTI (National Development Team for Inclusion) have today published the second edition of a guide which explains how the health charter can be used by social care providers[1]. This practical new resource supports the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities and aims to reduce inequalities in healthcare which were highlighted in a recent report.

Whilst organisations sign up to the charter to outline what they will do to boost people’s health, this accompanying self-assessment tool helps organisations measure progress and develop action plans for improvements.

More than 100 adult social care employers are already signed up to the guidance, which covers issues such as how to ensure all staff understand and apply the principles of mental capacity laws and how to listen to, respect and involve family carers. The resource includes practical steps on providing staff training on health and on promoting access to screening tests.

It is a well-established fact that the health of people with learning disabilities is worse than that of the general population. The 2013 Confidential Inquiry Into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities found that, on average, learning disabled men die 13 years earlier and women 20 years earlier that the general population; almost half the deaths considered were premature. NHS England last year launched a national review of such premature deaths.

The new edition sets out key outcomes and advice from organisations already using the practical support which can be used to:

  • establish a clear commitment to addressing health inequalities
  • deliver an important message to commissioners that health and wellbeing is a priority
  • support regulatory compliance
  • drive improvements in services, set strategic goals and organisational responsibilities
  • support the duty – included in the Care Act – to promote wellbeing.

VODG chief executive Rhidian Hughes said:

“The requirements of the Care Act combined with longstanding and compelling evidence of health inequalities make the health charter an invaluable resource for social care staff. Providers – and commissioners – must prioritise the individual health and wellbeing needs of people with learning disabilities.”


Sue Turner, learning disability lead at the NDTi said:

“The health inequalities people with learning disabilities experience are unjust and unfair. The health charter is designed to help social care providers tackle these inequalities, and the impact they can have on improving the health and therefore the lives of people with learning disabilities should not be underestimated.”


Michaela Hopps, Tees Esk Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust team lead, specialist health team said:

“The Care Act firmly places the emphasis on wellbeing, and care providers have a legal duty to anticipate health needs and act accordingly to avoid delays in care and treatment. The health charter is an invaluable tool for us to identify gaps in service through self-assessment and determine priorities for care delivery.”


Social care provider Vibrance is using the charter in the supporting the complex health needs of a 64-year-old woman with learning disabilities. Jean Jay, Director of Development said:

“Signing up to the health charter has been of help to the Vibrance staff team when supporting someone with complex health needs who decided not to have treatment for cancer. They ensured that the person concerned had all the information needed to make an informed choice about her illness, the options and the consequences of her decisions, and are working with the health team and MacMillan Cancer Support service to ensure she gets the best possible support.”


Notes to editors


Case study: Fred

When Fred*, who has a learning disability, moved into his new supported living home two years ago he was in very poor health.

Staff at his previous care organisation in the north east had incorporated his cigarette and coffee breaks into his daily timetable, fearing that challenging his habits would distress him. Fred was unfit and had cataracts, and his poor dental hygiene meant he had lost most of his teeth and kept getting tooth infections.

Fred’s new support provider, Thera North, organised the kind of health checks, dental appointments and eye tests that are routine for people they support. Fred stopped smoking a month after moving into the Thera North home as his full social diary distracting him from unhealthy habits. His eyesight radically improved after two cataract operations and dental surgery put an end to the tooth infections. He is now more active and walks for miles every day.


The second edition of the Health Charter in Practice will be available to download on or please contact [email protected] for an advance copy of the report. Please also see the health charter website here:

VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) represents over 80 leading voluntary and charity social care disability provider organisations. Its members work with around a million disabled people, employ more than 85,000 staff and have a combined annual turnover in excess of £2.5 billion.

The NDTi (National Development Team for Inclusion) is a not-for-profit social change organisation concerned with promoting inclusion and equality for people who risk exclusion and who need support to lead a full life. It has a particular interest in issues around age, disability, mental health and children and young people.

This development of the Health Charter has been funded through the voluntary sector strategic partner programme which is backed by the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England. The grant is held between VODG and the National Care Forum.

For further comment please email [email protected].

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[1] Health Charter for Social Care Providers