Care Manager for People with Learning Disabilities

At one time it was felt that people who found it especially difficult to cope with ordinary life should be looked after in institutions like special schools, hospitals or hostels. This was true of those who were perceived to have mental problems that today we would call learning disability. We recognise now that they should be helped to develop independence - to live in the community and not be locked away.  The underlying principle of Care in the Community is that people have the right to live as high a quality of life as possible no matter what their disability. It applies to the aged, for example, who might find life difficult for both mental and physical reasons. The care manager and the community team are responsible for support systems that meet the needs of all kinds of disadvantaged people.  The post can be found in all types of authority except district councils.

Work Environment
This is office based but involves a great deal of time spent in care centres, residential and private homes, hospitals, hostels, special schools, voluntary organisations and community centres. Sometimes the work can be distressing and threatening but staff are trained to cope.  The standard working week is 37 hours and may involve being on duty at any time of the day and night as the occasion arises within a 24-hour service for clients.

Daily Activities
The care manager oversees:

  • residential services where a number of houses in the authority occupied by people with learning disabilities receive 24 hour attention from health and social staff and voluntary organisations; 
  • day care services consisting of day centres, an employment service and a number of small businesses; 
  • the community support service for people who live independently or with the carers in the community; 
  • community teams which include nurses, other care managers, district nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists - the whole range of specialist health professionals and administration.

Care managers are responsible for maintaining a quality system which ensures that people with learning or other disabilities exercise their right to live in ordinary housing in the community, are helped to make decisions for themselves and develop relationships with other non-disabled and disabled people. This entails providing services that:

  • meet individual needs; 
  • are easily accessible; 
  • are delivered locally and, where appropriate, to the individual's usual home, workplace or social centre; 
  • facilitate access to ordinary local services, including shops, banks, education, work and leisure amenities; 
  • offer the opportunity to contribute to the local community and be involved in its affairs.

In enabling persons with learning disabilities access to these facilities and the support they need to develop their skills and competences, the care manager fulfills the care in the community principle that everybody has equal rights to respect and dignity, no matter who or what they are.  Care managers will negotiate funding for care plans, implement them, monitor their effectiveness and provide support for clients, families and carers to make to ensure their success.  In the course of their daily work they meet with voluntary and statutory agencies and provide clients and carers with counselling and therapeutic services as appropriate. They will also defend the client's rights of consultation, representation and appeal as defined by the Disabled Persons Act of 1986. But as resources are always limited, everything has to be done within budgetary guidelines.

Skills & Interests
To do this job properly you would need:

  • skills in assessment of individual care and support needs; 
  • interpersonal and counselling skills, including an understanding of human behaviour and relationships; 
  • effective negotiating and budgetary management skills; 
  • ability to encourage client participation and empowerment; 
  • ability to work within a multi-disciplinary environment; 
  • to be able to maintain client records and write reports, using IT; 
  • the capacity for working in a sensitive and open fashion with clients and carers; 
  • to demonstrate an understanding of the importance of Equal Opportunities policy;
  • as awareness of the principles of customer care in employment and service delivery;
  • knowledge of relevant legislation, services and resources.

Entry Requirements
It is essential to have a social work or similar qualification for example: diploma or degree in social work, certificate in qualification in social work, registered nursing qualification, certificate in social services, diploma in occupational therapy, or specific training in counselling and social care assessment relating to be people with learning disabilities.  You should also be experienced in the assessment of individual special needs, paid or unpaid, whether in the public, private or voluntary sector. It is also useful to have experience of working within a multi-disciplinary framework and with people with learning disability.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
The promotion path in care management is straightforward. It is possible to move up to Senior and then Principal Care Manager and from there to Service Manager, Assistant Director and Director. There are as opportunities in other areas of social services such as mental health, childcare protection, family care, youth work, fostering, adoption or probation.  This is a growing area where the demand for personnel often exceeds the supply. It is a testing environment in which to work but there are structured professional development programmes and in-service training.

Further Information & Services
British Association of Social Workers
Care Council for Wales
Community Care
Community Service Volunteers
Health & Care Professionals Council
Social Care Association

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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