Promoting choice and control in residential services for people with learning disabilities

This paper discusses the gap between policy goals and practice in residential services for people with learning disabilities. Drawing on a nine month ethnographic study of three residential services, it outlines a range of obstacles to the promotion of choice and control that were routinely observed in the culture and working practices of the services. Issues discussed include conflicting service values and agendas, inspection regimes, an attention to the bigger decisions in a person's life when empowerment could more quickly and effectively be promoted at the level of everyday practice, problems of communication and interpretation and the pervasiveness of teaching. We offer a range of suggestions as to how these obstacles might be tackled