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People in supported living isolated due to lockdown mixups

Individuals with learning disabilities denied visits amid confusion over rules, MPs told
Picture shows an older couple separated by a window and holding their hands against the glass to greet each other

Individuals with learning disabilities denied visits because rules are being confused with those for care homes, MPs told

A charity chief executive has told a panel of MPs that people with learning disabilities in supported living are being denied visits from loved ones and do not have access to COVID-19 testing.

Steve Scown, previously a learning disability nurse, told the Health and Social Care Committee in Westminster this week that this is the reality for thousands of people in supported living individual flats that enable a person to live as independently as possible where official guidance has been confused with that for residential care homes.

Steve Scown

Guidance was often contradictory, nonsensical and changed

Mr Scown, chief

Individuals with learning disabilities denied visits because rules are being confused with those for care homes, MPs told

Picture shows an older couple separated by a window and holding their hands against the glass to greet each other
Picture: iStock

A charity chief executive has told a panel of MPs that people with learning disabilities in supported living are being denied visits from loved ones and do not have access to COVID-19 testing.

Steve Scown, previously a learning disability nurse, told the Health and Social Care Committee in Westminster this week that this is the reality for thousands of people in supported living – individual flats that enable a person to live as independently as possible – where official guidance has been confused with that for residential care homes.

Steve Scown

‘Guidance was often contradictory, nonsensical and changed’

Mr Scown, chief executive of the charity Dimensions, said that guidance during England’s two lockdowns had been plentiful but contradictory, with residential care home guidance being issued weeks before that for supported living.

‘In the first 100 days of the pandemic we received 100 guidance notes. Guidance was often contradictory, nonsensical and changed,’ he said.

‘Supported living has not been getting tests. We decided to buy our own tests to try and enable Christmas visits.’

James O’Rourke, whose brother Tony has learning disabilities and lives in a block of 12 supported living flats, told the committee the family had been unable to see him during two lockdowns because blanket bans had been imposed and staff had not understood regulations.

‘People with learning disabilities are susceptible to COVID-19 but there are ways we can mitigate this,’ he said.

‘People with learning disabilities are at the back of the queue’

A Public Health England report found people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely than the general population to have died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Scown said the charity had evidence that during the pandemic do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation notices had been placed inappropriately on people with learning disabilities in hospitals and when families had not been able to be with them. ‘It is frankly disgraceful,’ he said.

Committee chair Jeremy Hunt said the evidence would be considered, adding: ‘There is a very clear picture that people with learning disabilities are at the back of the queue.’


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