How char­i­ties deal with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

AROUND ONE in 13 British Jews has a learn­ing dis­abil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the first at­tempt to quan­tify such in­ci­dences in the com­mu­nity.

As many as 23,000 Jews are es­ti­mated to have a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional need, rang­ing from those with se­vere dis­abil­i­ties such as Down’s syn­drome to milder forms such as dys­lexia.

The fig­ures sug­gest “there are a lot of peo­ple who, for what­ever rea­son, the ex­ist­ing Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions are not reach­ing,” said Jonathan Joseph, chair­man of the char­ity Lang­don, which com­mis­sioned the re­search.

While there is no di­rect data for the per­cent­age of British Jews with learn- ing dis­abil­i­ties, the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search de­scribed the over­all es­ti­mate of 7.4 per cent as a “good ap­prox­i­ma­tion”.

Ac­cord­ing to the JPR fig­ures, there are roughly 1,600 Jews with “se­vere” ed­u­ca­tional needs; 2,100 in the “bor­der­line” cat­e­gory who are un­likely to re­ceive main­stream ed­u­ca­tion; a fur­ther 7,100 with “mod­er­ate” dis­abil­i­ties who may be in main­stream ed­u­ca­tion but with sig­nif­i­cant spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional sup­port; and 12,400 — the ma­jor­ity — with “mild” dis­abil­i­ties, such as dys­praxia.

Mr Joseph be­lieved there was “a lack of aware­ness” about the kind of fa­cil­i­ties of­fered by Jewish char­i­ties in the field. Lang­don sup­ports around 150 young Jews in Lon­don and Manch­ester.

“We help peo­ple to find high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, we pro­vide ex­em­plary lev­els of day-to-day to care, we help ad­min­is­ter fi­nance and pro­vide ex­ten­sive lev­els of em­ploy­ment train­ing,” he ex­plained.

He hoped the re­search would prompt fur­ther work in con­junc­tion with the Nor­wood chil­dren’s char­ity and the Kisharon spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional school to im­prove their reach.

Mr Joseph said all the agen­cies were “try­ing to con­tend with the day-to-day is­sues of gov­ern­ment cuts, try­ing to find good mem­bers of staff and suit­able prop­erty in the south east for peo­ple to live in”.

But the re­search marked an at­tempt to “raise our eyes above the para­pet” and plan ahead. “As Jewish char­i­ties, we need to ex­pand our hori­zons and do bet­ter,” he said. “We have a moral duty to an­swer what we see as a per­ceived need.”

Ac­cord­ing to the JPR statis­tics, there are around 10,400 Jews with se­vere to mod­er­ate learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties whose needs may range from full-time care to a few hours of mon­i­tor­ing a week.

Its fig­ures were ex­trap­o­lated from a range of stud­ies which mea­sured the in­ci­dence of learn­ing dis­abil­ity among Is­raeli Jews and among the broader British and Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tions.

Learn­ing dis­abil­ity is more preva­lent among men, with the JPR sug­gest­ing just un­der one in

10 Jewish boys and men ex­pe­ri­ence it, com­pared with slightly over one in 20 Jewish girls and women.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 Scot­tish Cen­sus, 4.2 per cent of Jews re­ported a learn­ing dis­abil­ity, dif­fi­culty or de­vel­op­men­tal or­der – com­pared with 3.1 per cent of the gen­eral Scot­tish pop­u­la­tion.

The higher preva­lence among Jews was un­usual be­cause it stood in “con­trast to other med­i­cal con­di­tions”, Dr Daniel Staet­sky, the au­thor of the JPR re­port, noted.

Dr Staet­sky ob­served the in­ci­dence of more pro­found dis­abil­i­ties in the Scot­tish re­port tal­lied with what might be ex­pected from the other sources of data.

But a cen­sus, where peo­ple were re­port­ing their own con­di­tions, might not pick up the milder forms. There was no equiv­a­lent ques­tion in the cen­sus for Eng­land and Wales.

Dr Bev­er­ley Ja­cob­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kisharon, said the re­search was im­por­tant in “help­ing to put the is­sue cen­tre stage”.

She added: “Given we have got no other way of draw­ing down the in­for­ma­tion, this is as good a way as we have. It is im­por­tant to recog­nise the preva­lence of the prob­lem in the Jewish com­mu­nity.”

Elaine Kerr, Nor­wood chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “The fig­ures in this re­port re­mind us all of the es­sen­tial need for ser­vices that sup­port chil­dren and adults with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“We un­der­stand the preva­lence of learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties in the British Jewish com­mu­nity as we pro­vide ser­vices for thou­sands of peo­ple each year. We look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to of­fer sup­port and care to all those who need it.”

We have a moral duty

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