Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Time for Change - The Challenge Ahead

Yesterday marked the my report The Challenge Ahead. This is the final installment in my Time for Change campaign, which set out to improve the quality of care and support given to individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism.

First, I would like to thank all involved with this campaign over the last year. With the help of this diverse crowd – which has included everyone from providers to those affected by learning disabilities and/or autism – we have managed to get a real commitment from NHS England to close inappropriate care settings.

But this is not job done. There are still real challenges facing this programme. And it is to these that today’s report speaks.

First, I have called for a Learning Disabilities Commissioner. They would be empowered and obliged to act on behalf of those individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism. This is crucial to ensuring that the promises made last Autumn are kept, and that these people get the support they deserve.

I also call for the Transforming Care programme to be independently evaluated. Without rigorous external examination of the process, there is a risk that we reach 2019 only to find that yet more promises have been broken. We cannot allow this to happen.

This, and the other recommendations I have made, has come from a consultation with individuals affected by learning disabilities and/or autism. By listening to the voices of those most affected, it is possible to ensure that reforms are made with their best interests at heart.

And I was encouraged by what I heard at the launch of this report. Both Alistair Burt MP, the Minister for Social Care, and Luciana Berger MP, the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, supported the need to provide high quality care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. But this is not just about politicians. We heard from Phill Wills, father of Josh Wills, and two family members of people who were in Winterbourne View. These compelling testimonies reminded us of why this campaign matters – to improve the lives of the people affected.

Finally, I will echo what Baroness Hollins said yesterday – This is just a report. What needs to come next is action.

Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Social Care

Luciana Berger MP, Shadow Minister for Mental Health

Phill Wills, Father of Josh Wills and Campaigner
 For more information on this report, see here.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Importance of Good Governance

Today saw the release of the PACAC report on the collapse of Kids Company. Many of their observations chime with what I and ACEVO said last summer. They are right to say that the government and trustees gave Camilla Batmanghelidh far too much freedom. On top of that, there was no effort to deal with catastrophically low reserves. And they are right to underline the importance of effective and healthy governance.

What we saw was a total failure of governance. All of Kids Company’s funds were driven towards the front line. This left the back office woefully under supported. A lack of support which, unsurprisingly, led to the charities collapse. Here, the golden rule of charity governance – that charity is delivered on the front line, but it begins in the back office – was forgotten. 

Given this, PACAC were right to condemn the Kids Company trustees as ‘negligent’. What they did not then do was provide an image of how better governance could be promoted. Regulation alone cannot ensure best practice. What we need is a government, and regulator, which supports the sector to be better. I said this last year, when I wrote to the Chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross. I told him it is better to prevent, than to fight fire. What we heard today only underlines the importance of this. The additional funds recommended by PACAC should not be used simply to beef up policing. By providing additional support, it can help the sector flourish.

And a flourishing charity sector is good for society. This is why I, and ACEVO, will be looking to create a Charity Excellence Hub. This will be a crucial first step towards realising a more effective charity sector. But we cannot do this alone. We need support from others. Through this, we can build strong governance for the future, and prevent the collapse of yet more charities. 

I have been hammering this message home today, both on BBC Breakfast and the Today Programme. My Director of Public Policy, Asheem Singh, said the same on BBC News. The message is clear – if charities are to continue the excellent work which they do, then we must invest properly in their governance.