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Public policy in intellectual and developmental disability

Cumella, Stuart J

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32833be998
Mental retardation and developmental disorders: Edited by Nick Bouras

Purpose of review To summarize research into public policy affecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, published in 2009 and early 2010.

Recent findings There is a growing body of international policy relating to intellectual disability, usually expressed as general moral objectives. However, these may neglect the importance of protecting people with intellectual disabilities from exploitation and violence. The importance in recent years of neoliberal conceptions of the state have led to proxy purchasing of services by public agencies, which may steer people with intellectual disabilities into a limited array of services negotiated between public authorities, family carers, and people with intellectual disabilities themselves. Some of these services may treat their clients in a childlike way, and fail to promote choice. These problems arise from several organizational factors including the difficulty experienced by staff in reconciling agency commitments to empowerment with the reality of their clients' limited capacity for making informed and rational choices.

Summary Public policy affecting the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disability is an underdeveloped area of scholarship. There is a need for more critical analysis, drawing on a broader range of academic disciplines.

College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Correspondence to Dr Stuart J. Cumella, Honorary Senior Lecturer, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK Tel: +00 44 121 414 8188/1886 888 797; fax: +00 44 121 414 6919; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.