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The proposed reaserch is addressing this gap in knowledge by examining how people with learning disabilities and their allies are responding in proactive ways to day service changes
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A transformation is taking place in the UK in which many more disabled people are now living independently. Social care provision is becoming more personalised and within the individual's control. Responsibility for daytime social care and support is being handed to more people with learning disabilities. With the help of others, these people are being increasingly expected to 'self-build' their daily lives and to take up new community-based opportunities.

However, there have also been significant cuts to local authority budgets. Many day centres, adult education provision and other services are closing or limiting availability.

In this new landscape, little is known about how people are experiencing these changes, and how support organisations are adapting to them.

There are some local examples of people with learning disabilities (and their families and supporters) creating new initiatives. Innovative forms of peer-led support are appearing including 'friendship circles', to provide support, learn and share knowledge, make and meet friends. However, wider evidence of these groups and the broader impacts of the changing landscape on people with learning disabilities is lacking.

Our research sought to address this gap in knowledge by examining how people with learning disabilities and their supporters are responding in proactive ways to day service changes.

We interviewed 50 people with learning disabilities across four local authorities. Two areas were in England (one urban and rural area) and two in Scotland (one urban and rural area). We asked each person to fill out a schedule of their 'typical week' including the places where they spent time, a chart of the activities they did, and a circle chart of the people in their lives.

Our focus was on how people are managing to participate in community settings and creating new forms of collective peer-led support. We also focused on what kinds of informal, lifelong and community learning is involved in the development of these support networks.

We also interviewed staff from 27 organisations across the four local authorities. These were non-residential learning disability support organisations including social enterprise groups in community centres, self-advocacy organisations, peer-support friendship groups, and garden centre and book shop projects. We found lots of models of innovative support that enable people to live more independently and foster people's networks. Most were micro-enterprises (with five or less full-time staff) rather than large providers.

And finally, we interviewed seven local authority social care commissioners who have a role in planning, purchasing and monitoring the support sector. This includes services provided to people in their own homes. With personalisation, a lot of commissioning is carried out through the allocation of personal budgets so we wanted to find out how the commissioners were supporting the changes in the sector.

Our project team is comprised of a group of researchers at University of Southampton and University of Dundee. The team also includes local disability advocacy and support organisations in our advisory groups. Thanks also go to Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability for their help with the proposal idea and for agreeing to support the project.

This website is designed to be a resource to showcase the outcomes from our project. We hope that it will contribute to enhancing the fledgling network of self-build networks across the UK and inform the future development of this emergent and important form of social care and informal learning.