Today, we see NHS England announce a tangible commitment to close inappropriate hospital settings for those with learning disabilities. This is a long overdue milestone – initially, we were promised that this would have been realized by June 2014. Over the next 3 years, we should see these institutions which have been campaigning against closed down, and those within them being transferred to more appropriate community care.
This is a victory for all those – both individual campaigners and charities – who have been campaigning against the inappropriate treatment of these vulnerable individuals.
Physical restraint, over-medication and seclusion are shocking ways to treat our fellow citizens and I'm determined we must do better. That is why I welcome today’s closure programme. That's why I welcome the plan to scale up community provision. In my view it’s a step-change. High time some will say, but I'm confident it is now going to happen.
And a clear indication of the will to change comes with the announcement of the closure of the biggest of the NHS learning disability hospitals, Calderstones, and the plans to provide modern and professional care in the community.
This will take time because we must ensure proper discussion and consultation with people and families; making sure what is provided meets the best possible care for people who have been for so long so badly let down by the system.
I am not content to simply rely on proposals and what I have seen myself to find out what’s happening on the ground. Collecting the views of those on the front line is crucial to making sure we get these changes right. This is why I’m launching a major fact-finding mission. You can find out more about this here (To make sure all voices are heard, an easy-read version of this can be found here).
To prevent a repeat of the failures which we’ve seen, I'm also calling on the government to bring forward new legislation to enshrine rights to challenge for people with learning disabilities. This has been promised. But it needs to go hand in hand with closures and reprovision so that people with learning disabilities feel confident of their power to effect change.
But we are seeing progress. After years of inertia, it looks like something is finally being done. This is the time for change.
As if this week wasn’t busy enough, the NAO also released their report into Kids Company yesterday. They found that current Cabinet Office leadership did not observe proper oversight and leadership of the Kids Company. Neither they nor the Office for Civil Society seemed to have any appetite to engage with Kids Company's lack of reserves, governance and chronic cash flow difficulties.
Asheem Singh, my Director of Policy, was on BBC Breakfast yesterday, emphasizing that this is something that needs to change. Leadership and governance are crucial to making sure that charities are successful – something that the government would do well to recognize.
It is right that government works with charities to reach the most vulnerable in our society – this is one of the things that charities do best. But they need to remember to look after the bottom line. The good work of charities is done on the front line, but built on the back office. Kids Company forgot this, and we have seen the consequences.