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New research has found that fewer than one in three learning-disabled people has a friend who does not have a simil...
New research has found that fewer than one in three learning-disabled people has a friend who does not have a similar disability or is not paid to look after them, reports The Guardian (p8).

The study, which highlights the often empty lives of people with mental handicap or with learning difficulties, gives a powerful endorsement to the policy of care in the community.

According to the research, just four in every hundred people in this sector have a job. And more than 80% of people with learning disability are so inactive that they are at risk of heart disease.

But it found that learning-disabled people enjoy a better quality of life when they live in dispersed, supported housing in the community. They are likely to have greater social contact, exercise more choice and take less medication.

A government circular, arriving on health planners' desks today, warns that keeping former patients together on residential campuses when long-stay hospital are closed is likely to mean they have 'significantly poorer' quality of life than if they move into dispersed housing.

The cicular points out that the research did find some benefits in 'village communities' such as the 30 Camphill communities for 1,500 learning-disabled adults. But such schemes have played little part so far in the hospital closure programme.

The two-year study was carried out by a team lead by the Hester Adrian research centre at Manchester University.

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