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Strengthen the support worker role to fix the care system

Independent living is only possible with a team of dedicated support workers and nurses

Independent living is only possible with a team of dedicated support workers and nurses

Image of a man with Down’s syndrome looking out of a train window. Clare Taylor of mental health and learning disability at the charity Turning Point, talks about how to fix the system of care for people with learning disabilities and autism.
Picture: Getty Images

Does our system of care for people with learning disabilities and autism need fixing?

The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’ according to a succession of high-profile reports published so far this year.

The University of Bristol’s Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme , the Care Quality Commission, and the Children’s Commissioner for England all raised serious concerns that individuals are being let down because of poor practice in the sector.

Film showed apparent intimidation and cruel treatment of vulnerable patients

Adults are dying early because they are not receiving adequate support, others are spending years locked in institutions out of sight and far from home, and some are being routinely restrained or sedated.

To add to this disturbing picture, a BBC Panorama programme broadcast undercover film showing apparent intimidation and cruel treatment of vulnerable patients by staff at the Whorlton Hall care home in County Durham in scenes that made for disturbing viewing.

The majority of support in the sector is delivered by compassionate and professional employees with the best interests of people at heart. But ongoing failings and instances of abuse show that lessons need to be learned and improvements made.

Support for people with learning disabilities and their families and carers

The question now is what is the best way forward?

In my opinion, the answer lies in leadership, collaborative working with other health and social care professionals and supporting people with learning disabilities and their families and carers to have a voice in their care.

These factors are all crucial to ensure best practice and a service fit for now and the future.

As a health and social care organisation, Turning Point supports 825 adults with learning disabilities across the UK. We help many to live independently in the community, including those who have spent time in special hospitals.

A culture where employees are supported to raise concerns

Becoming part of the local community can contribute to the quality of life and the well-being of an individual.

However, it is only possible through the recruitment of dedicated support workers and nurses who have the right values and training.

Staff who recognise that someone who is non-verbal can still communicate their feelings and needs and spot signs of distress, as well as providing consistency for people with learning disabilities.

People should have a say in their own support. At Turning Point they are involved in the process of selection and recruitment of new staff. Also fundamental is a culture where employees are supported and encouraged to raise issues or concerns.

Support worker role needs recognition and respect

If there is a dialogue with managers, issues can be dealt with before they escalate. The role of the support worker is vital and should be given wider recognition and respect by society as a whole.

The NHS was founded on the principle of everyone having a right to decent healthcare, and that includes adults at risk in society.

People with learning disabilities matter just as much as anyone else and have the same right to long, fulfilling lives. Let’s show them they matter by giving them the support they deserve.


Clare Taylor, managing director of mental health and learning disability at the charity Turning Point, talks about how to fix the system of care for people with learning disabilities and autism.Clare Taylor is managing director of mental health and learning disability at the charity Turning Point

 

 


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