Wednesday, 10 September 2014
A number of key meetings last week and this. First, with Norman Lamb MP, the Care and Support Minister (who will, incidentally, be speaking at our Lib Dem Conference event). He was the politician who made the brave pledge to move people with learning disabilities into the community and away from institutions like Winterbourne. The pledge has not been honoured, and I know he feels deeply about that, but he was right to make the pledge and right to be holding NHS England's feet to the fire (and indeed mine) on achieving it now. I was able to outline the key planks of the work we are doing in the steering group. We discussed the issue of closing facilites: clearly some are not for the NHS to close, but I argued there is a duty to spell out the journey that means we will close institutional care - so that care and support in the community is the norm not the exception. Of course this means we have to develop community facilities, and the third sector's role here is crucial. We also need proper crisis support. But clarity on the objective is crucial.
And I saw Norman again at a summit organised by him and the third sector organisation ‘Change’, which I have blogged about before. Philippa Brangan was able to demonstrate what work they do in promoting and supporting professional work for people with learning disabilities. What came across to me is the crucial importance of securing a transfer of power from the state to the citizen in the work we do on a commissioning framework. Norman raised the question of giving people ‘the right to challenge’. Music to my ears. In fact when I presented my report on ‘Choice and Competition’ to the Cabinet during the Health and Social Care Act Listening Exercise, the right to challenge for citizens in their health service was a key recommendation. The NHS Constitution states that ‘the NHS belongs to the people’ yet this is hardly evidenced! So we will look at the potential for empowerment, challenge and personal budgets. However personal budgets require choice. That requires a bigger provider market and so the role of the third sector - as advocates and campaigners as well as providers of citizen focused services becomes even more crucial.
The clock is now ticking as we aim for our last meeting on the 27th October and all of the discussions with PLD and families to support that. I was able to report to the Department of Health assurance group (chaired by Norman and Gavin Harding, who has been an invaluable member of my steering group) on Monday about what we are up to. Frankly we need to focus on outcomes as what I'm told is people with learning disabilities want progress and action, not more discussion. Exactly what Gavin emphasised on Monday. And what we will try to do at our meeting later today.