FPLD logoA guide that aims to provide information on how best to support people with learning disabilities to access their local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) has been launched.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD), in partnership with National IAPT-NHS England, has published the Positive Practice Guide for Learning Disability, which is aimed at those who work in, commission, or refer people to IAPT services. 

The guide is informed by a three-year project run by FPLD in partnership with Kings College, London and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and funded by the Department of Health. It includes numerous practical examples of how to make reasonable adjustments to help people with learning disabilities to access IAPT services.

The teams involved in the FPLD programme developed reasonable adjustments and different models of working that greatly impacted on their clinical practice when working with people with learning disabilities. This included:

Setting up a flagging system at the referral stage to alert practitioners that the person referred has literacy difficulties or a learning disability and require reasonable adjustments

The development of pathways to direct someone presenting with depression or anxiety  to the most appropriate service 

Easy read resources

Involving family members in therapy and in homework tasks

Ensuring that they were able to keep track of numbers of people with learning disabilities seen and recovery rates on National Data Set.

All participants reported that some of the reasonable adjustments to their clinical practice had increased their efficacy with all their clients. The IAPT programme is uniquely placed within the mental healthcare pathway to support people with learning disabilities who present with depression and anxiety. There is evidence that people with learning disabilities can benefit from the therapies offered by IAPT services. 

Christine-Koulla Burke, FPLD/Access to IAPT Programme lead, and one of the authors of the report, said: “We know that people with learning disabilities who may need support with their mental health do not receive prompt and timely access to mental health services so access to IAPT would go a long way in promoting better mental health. This guide sets out some practical steps that IAPT practitioners can take to ensure equality of access.”

Jenny Edwards CBE, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation and FPLD, added: “People with learning disabilities should have be equal in the campaign for good mental health services for all. This guide is the beginning of a journey to transform IAPT services to better support people with learning disabilities. Our aim is that the most vulnerable people in society are supported to lead fulfilling lives.”