Specialist community teams for adults with learning disabilities: referrals to a countywide service in England

Isabel C H Clare, Kelly Wade, Nadine Ranke, Sarah Whitson, Allison Lillywhite, Elizabeth Jones, SallyAnne Broughton, Adam Wagner, Antony J Holland

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Purpose – While “generic” community teams for adults with learning disabilities (CTs) are well-established in the UK, very little recent evidence is available about any aspect of their work. As part of a larger project about the role, structure and functioning of CTs, the purpose of this paper is to provide data about referrals.

Design/methodology/approach – Over threemonths, the authors obtained data about 270 consecutive new referrals to five CTs in a countywide integrated health (NHS) and care management (local authority) service.

Findings – The 270 referrals related to 255 individuals, mainly already service users, with almost a third (30 per cent, n=204) described as people with severe or profound disabilities. Consistent with the reported living arrangements (residential accommodation or with one or more family members (87 per cent, n=270)), referrals were most often made by social care staff, General Practitioners or carers. The referrals related to a
wide range of issues including mental health and/or behavioural needs, physical health and skills, and independence. The major group, however, were requests about a person’s entitlement to specialist learning disability services and/or reviews of an existing social care package.

Research limitations/implications – The focus on new referrals and the exclusion of intra-team referrals mean that the data are not representative of a CT’s caseload and cannot be used as a basis for resourcing. Nevertheless, the findings emphasise the heterogeneity of the population, and the long-term and varied nature of their needs, meaning that CTs require access to a range of expertise and, often, an inter-agency approach. The implications for service design are considered.

Originality/value – This is the first empirical study of referrals to specialist integrated (health and care
management) community learning disabilities teams in England.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalTizard Learning Disability Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2019


  • Learning disabilities
  • Health
  • intellectual disability
  • community learning disability teams
  • community services
  • Care management

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