'Urgent and sustained action' needed on behalf of institutionalised people with learning disabilities

Experts give views on why post-Winterbourne View hospital closures have not met deadline

Learning Disability PracticeThe scandal that sees many people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour cared for in hospital rather than in community settings needs ‘urgent and sustained action’, according to Mencap chief executive Jan Tregelles.

Ms Tregelles is one member of an expert panel discussing the issue in this month’s Learning Disability Practice journal. 

Care minister Norman Lamb took responsibility for the closure programme in the wake of the scandal at Winterbourne View, an assessment and treatment hospital in which workers abused people with learning disabilities.

The panel gave their views on what the government should do to put right the lack of progress in getting people out of institutionalised care.

Their comments follow the publication of a National Audit Office report on the government’s failure to move people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour from hospital to more suitable accommodation by its own deadline of June 2014.

Ms Tregelles says the government, NHS England and local authorities must agree on a nationwide closure programme of inpatient settings and invest in the development of local services.

‘This scandal is not going away,’ she says. ‘It needs urgent and sustained action now and from whoever is in power after the next general election.’

Others to give their views are:

  • Simon Duffy, director of the Centre for Welfare Reform and chair of the Housing and Support Alliance 
  • Simon Jones, head of behavioural support at independent healthcare provider Care UK and member of the RCN learning disability nursing forum
  • Debra Moore, director of nursing at independent provider Danshell
  • Sue Turner, learning disability lead at the National Development Team for Inclusion

Mr Duffy said: ‘Power is at the heart of the problem. We have forgotten that, in the past, deinstitutionalisation was driven by families, advocates and professionals aiming to do what was right, with bureaucracy catching up only at the end of the process. We are expecting bureaucracies to solve problems they are ill-equipped to solve.'

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