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Title: 'Bugger you lot I know I can do it!' : discourses about empowering people with learning disabilities
Author: Jingree, Treena
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2009
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According to recent Government policy, people with learning disabilities are disempowered by a culture within learning disability services which increases dependence rather independence (e.g. Department of Health, 2001; 2009). Indeed, several researchers who have examined interactions between people with learning disabilities and their support workers (e.g. Antaki, Finlay, Sheridan, Jingree and Walton, 2006; Antaki, Finlay and Walton, 2007; Finlay, Antaki and Walton, 2008b; Jingree, Finlay and Antaki, 2006) suggest that though support workers are responsible for facilitating the independence of service-users, this is often in the face of managing several other conflicting agendas (e.g. service-user safety and well-being) which may have an undermining effect on initial efforts to empower service-users. Taking a critical realist stance, this thesis used discourse analysis to examine poly-vocal accounts about empowering people with learning disabilities. By adopting this position the identification of interpretative repertoires and their functions in talk allowed for discussions about the organisation of power in social relations with people with learning disabilities. The first study of this thesis was a discourse analysis of staff accounts about facilitating the independence of service-users. This analysis not only focused on how staff presented their conflicting agendas as an ideological dilemma (Billig et al, 1988) it also examined how speakers constructed their own identity and service-user identity when facilitating choices and control. It was found that speakers invoked increasing autonomy repertoires which were presented as the guiding principal to staff practice. However, these repertoires also functioned as dilemmatic resources, which, when advanced with other interpretative repertoires (e. g. practicalities repertoires or conformity and normalisation repertoires) allowed staff to present arguments against facilitating freedom of choice. Staff also drew on different contrast structures (e. g. good/bad staff, past/present descriptions, we/they categorisations) to persuasively argue about facilitating service-user choices and control. The second study was a discourse analysis examining service-user accounts about having choices and control. This study examined how speakers positioned themselves in talk and considered the functions that such identity constructions performed. Speakers were found to draw on guardianship and incompetence repertoires in three different ways. This was found to have disempowering effects in a manner similarly described by Scior (2003). However, it was also found that these repertoires allowed speakers to perform some useful tasks in talk such as managing blame and responsibility and constructing a competent identity. This analysis also identified ways in which speakers express dissatisfaction and discontentment at the services they receive. The third study was a discourse analysis examining focus group discussions between family carers about facilitating the independence of their adult son, daughter or sibling with learning disabilities. This study focussed on how speakers positioned themselves in talk, and constructed the identities of their son/daughter/sibling and services/service-workers. It was found that family carers also drew on increasing autonomy repertoires. However, this was found to perform different tasks to those identified in staff talk. In this context it was found that speakers drew on these repertoires to construct the facilitation of independence as a ridiculous and ill-considered, professional idea. As seen in the second study, family carers also drew on guardianship and incompetence repertoires. However, in this case these repertoires allowed speakers to construct their family members as incompetent, detached from reality and in need of structure. It also opened up speaker positions as authoritarian parents which allowed parents to justify managing their family member’s routines. Following the empirical chapters, consideration was given to how all of these studies have contributed to our understanding of empowering people with learning disabilities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available