Accessible summary

Steve Day worked on a project with North Somerset People First for his Masters degree. It was called Cutting Up Sharks. The title comes from the PostModernist artist, Damien Hurst, who once gave an exhibition where he preserved cows which had been cut in half. Mr Hurst did a similar thing with sharks, except they were kept in one piece. As sharks are far more dangerous than cows, we decided to cut up the sharks instead. We live in an unsafe world; nevertheless people with learning disabilities seek inclusion. The Cutting Up Sharks project used people's own individual stories as research. We looked at what people mean by the words success and failure. In today's world, success can begin to look like failure, yet sometimes failures often seem successful. In this sense, the right to take risks can empower individuals, as well as groups of people, to transform their own circumstances. Yet being equal and being included in a dangerous world means that if we are truly citizens we are also truly targets.


If ever there was a right time to write about Learning Disability Services in the context of a transformation, this is it. I am not writing about the subject as a single entity, divorced from the bigger picture of what is happening to society and the world about us. Whatever ‘transforming’ is going on for people with learning disability, it is doing so in the context of a global market place. The concept of ‘Cutting Up Sharks’ identifies danger as a by-product of inclusion. On the world's stage the news headlines have the same implications for us all. The change in the construction and administration of both the National Health Service and Social Services has, and is, having a profound effect on the lives of people with learning disabilities. Those changes have come about, in part, due to a recognition of past failures. I have worked in Learning Disability Services for 19 years, I have seen in that time British society slowly, often painfully slowly, begin to recognize people with learning disabilities amongst its population. In a PostModernist world recognition is about visibility, which in turn makes people potential targets. The ‘Inclusion’ championed in ‘Valuing People’ brings with it a right to be recognized and in so doing people with learning disabilities are included in a ‘general loss of confidence within Western democratic culture’. (Butler 2002, p. 110) Inclusion becomes not merely a question of service provision, it is also about bombs on buses, famine and bird flu, global warming and fragile democracies. There is a creaking door opening for people with learning disabilities, providing them recognition within the PostModern construct of fragmented societies. I would contend that against such a backdrop there is a real chance of the failure to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities becoming transformed.