'Valuing people - a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st century' white paper

28 March 2001

The Valuing people - a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st century white paper was published by the Department of Health in March 2001. The white paper set out a cross-government statement on learning disabilities.

The white paper was considered ground-breaking and was the first of its kind on learning disabilities since the 1971 Better services for the mentally handicapped white paper. Valuing people identified some of the challenges facing people living with learning disabilities including:

  • poorly coordinated services
  • insufficient support for carers
  • lack of control and choice for people
  • limited housing and employment choices
  • inconsistencies in expenditure and service delivery.

The white paper was based on the principles of rights, independence, choice and inclusion. It noted that in the autumn of 2000, only 216 out of 3,700 people with learning disabilities were receiving direct payments (payments in lieu of direct provision of local authority services), and promoted the expansion of direct payments as a key element of the government's plans.

Alongside the expansion of direct payments, the government committed to invest £1.3m a year for 3 years to develop advocacy services. Acknowledging the increased prevalence of mental health and chronic health conditions among people with learning disabilities, the government pledged to ensure people with learning disabilities had the same right of access to mainstream health services as everyone else. It would also seek to ensure that people with learning disabilities were registered with a GP and had their own health action plan.

The government stated that it would legislate to improve the provision of advice and information on housing and enable those people remaining in long-stay hospitals to move into more appropriate accommodation, with the aim of achieving closure of long-stay hospitals by April 2004. To support implementation, the government committed to establishing a Learning Disability Task Force to act as a 'champion' of change.

At a local level, councils would be required to set up Learning Disability Partnership Boards to take forward the plans in the white paper. The Social Services Inspectorate would be tasked with conducting national inspections of learning disability services in 2001/02 to assess how well-placed local councils were to implement the new strategy.

However, limited additional resources were a barrier to implementation and by 2009, the government issued a refreshed version as 'Valuing people now'.


Department of Health.
Valuing people - a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st century. Cm 5086.
HMSO; 2001.