Tuesday, 22 July 2014


One thing I learnt from my time in the big move from institutional to community care in mental health in Lambeth (Tooting Bec) in the 80s was the need to ensure the voice of the client, carers and families are heard.

I know that my recent blog post caused concern because it implied only the providers have the answers and that we already had the worked up plan.  I know that the issues raised from Winterbourne View, and what has happened since, are of deep concern, and I'm sorry that my blog caused upset. It was certainly not my intention. A sin of omission not commission.

None of the providers have all the answers.  But along with others they are clearly part of the answer and we now have an opportunity to work together to develop solutions that meet the needs of people with learning disability, their families and carers.

We have our first meeting of the Steering Group on developing a new national framework for learning disability care on Monday. We have a tight timetable. And as with any group we will need a strong focus on outcomes and a relentless drive that ensures the plans deliver better outcomes for people with learning difficulties.

Speaking to Philipa Bragman of Change (http://www.changepeople.org/) yesterday she stressed the culture change needed in the way services and support are delivered to people with learning disability.  Change is a leading national human rights organisation led by disabled people. Based in Leeds they have employed people with learning disabilities. She told me about their experience of a co-working model of employment which means people with learning disabilities co lead on projects with non learning disability people on equal terms and pay.

I contacted Vivien Cooper of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk) as a number of people suggested she could connect me to people I need to engage with.

As Vivien wrote on her website,

"I hope that this group will be an opportunity to address the lack of progress so far and to overcome the significant barriers. We know what needs to be done, and we get it right for some people – it cannot be beyond us to all to work together to deliver the outcomes we want to see.”

I wrote last week to members of the national Forum and had a lively discussion with Gavin Harding (Voices for People - gavinvoicesforpeople@gmail.com) who will Co-Chair a new DH assurance group with Norman Lamb MP.  He was keen to work with us to get positive change. Alongside that I have written to the families of people who were at Winterbourne View

One of the ideas put forward is a forum, where we can bring together all the stakeholders in a Summit so we can discuss the steering group's ideas and plans as they develop. There has been support from many people for this approach.  Gavin made the point we must do this so we can practically discuss how we can work together on the task.

The whole country was shocked by the serious abuse and appalling standards of care at Winterbourne View.  Without a detailed plan and collective action, progress on putting this right has slipped. Three years on, there has been hardly any movement towards helping vulnerable people with learning disabilities move into local communities.

It’s a scandal that only a third of the people who were in the so called Assessment and Treatment Centres last April have been transferred out and that even today, more people are being sent into them than are being discharged.

So, our focus as a steering group over these next 3 months must be how we can provide a national framework for local delivery which will ensure the pledge that was made is honoured.

I hope that people will want to work together – and will share their knowledge, expertise and experience to shape what we do and how we do it. I know that if we don’t do this, we will have wasted an opportunity.

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