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Health Secretary unveils support programme for those with learning disabilities


Health Secretary Alan Milburn has unveiled a new government strategy aimed at improving work opportunities of people with learning disabilities.

The White Paper, 'Valuing People: A new strategy for learning disability for the 21st Century' outlines a series of initiatives, including a new Learning Disability Development Fund of up to £100m over the next two years,
a national learning disability information centre and a helpline in partnership with Mencap and a £2m learning disability research initiative.

Mr Milburn said: "People learning disabilities have for too long had their needs ignored. For 30 years forgotten generations of people with learning disabilities have lost out. That must change. Alongside better services there will be a new drive to improve education and employment opportunities. Our ambition as a government is to create a society where there genuinely are opportunities for all."

United Response in Business is a company set up by national charity United Response whose purpose is to provide employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities. The company works on cleaning and maintenance contracts for a number of football teams including Manchester City, Stockport County and Fulham, and is currently on target to create 500 new jobs by 2001.

Commenting on the new paper, Su Sayer OBE, Chief Executive of United Response, said: "It is time for society to move on from treating people with learning difficulties as if they were unable to work, to participate in everyday activities and have full rights as citizens. They have been excluded too much, for too long. Employers are missing out on a very valuable workforce. What our employees have achieved with Fulham FC - and all the organisations we work with - is greater confidence, new relationships and their own money. We have encouraged many employers to see things differently, and the White Paper can push this further."

The government estimates there are approximately 210,000 people with severe learning disabilities and a further 1.2million people with mild/moderate learning disabilities. 'Learning disability 'does not include all those who have a 'learning difficulty' which is more broadly defined.


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