Skip to main content

Learning Disabilities (Community Provision)

Volume 584: debated on Tuesday 15 July 2014

8. What the new deadline will be for moving people with a learning disability out of assessment and treatment units and into community provision. (904855)

We are working with NHS England to set out clear expectations for progress and improved rates of discharge. This includes NHS England producing an action plan to measure progress against. The Winterbourne View joint improvement programme is working with local areas to identify issues and to support them to make progress.

Given the severe lack of funding in this area and the need for development of housing and proper support within the community to avoid the recurrence of, for example, what happened in Winterbourne, will the Minister explain how he is addressing this problem and who he is working with?

I applaud the right hon. Gentleman’s work on this, and it is very important that we make it very clear to the public that all of us share the ambition to get people out of institutional care when they do not need to be there. Actually, it is not about the lack of resources. The scandal is that, as a system, we are spending a fortune on institutional care when people could very often be much better cared for in their own communities. The good thing is that Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of NHS England, has shown a personal interest in this. I have discussed it many times with him. We have asked NHS England to produce an action plan by the end of August, demonstrating exactly how it will speed up the progress of getting people out of institutional care.

20. Promises come cheap, but results take sustained action. The fact is that a promise was made to the families of those with learning disabilities to move them out of assessment and treatment units by June 2014. What exactly is the situation now? The latest figures revealed that only 35% of that promise had been fulfilled. (904868)

The truth is that progress is far too slow. This has been a scandal that has dragged on for many years. It is not a new problem, and helping people who are capable of living independent lives with support in the community to get out of institutional care is long overdue. Changing the culture is complex and difficult, but we are absolutely determined to sustain the pressure to ensure that change is achieved.

22. I thank the Minister for those replies, but I understand that Sir Stephen Budd has been asked to lead a working group on these issues, reporting to NHS England. Will the Minister say a little more about the purpose of this group and its significance, in the light of the failure to meet the June deadline? (904870)

That is absolutely right, but Sir Simon Stevens took the view that it was essential to get the voluntary sector much more involved in the whole process. There are brilliant organisations such as Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation which are absolutely committed to achieving change, and the more we can work with them to achieve that change, the more likely we are to be successful.

After the appalling scandal at Winterbourne View, the Minister promised to stop people with learning disabilities being sent to assessment and treatment units for long periods. He has spectacularly failed: 2,600 people are still in ATUs, including 150 children; more people are now going into these units than are coming out; and half are still on anti-psychotic drugs or subject to physical restraint. Change will only happen with real leadership, but in answer to a parliamentary question, the Minister said he had not even met one of his colleagues at the Department for Communities and Local Government. He must now set a clear, non-negotiable deadline to end this practice in two years’ time and to secure public commitments from the Health Secretary, the Communities and Local Government Secretary and NHS England’s chief executive to make sure it happens.

I caution against sanctimony, because this scandal continued under the last Labour Government, who did nothing to get people out of institutional care. At least this Government are absolutely committed to changing that. What we discovered is that changing the culture is a lot more difficult than I had hoped, but we are absolutely determined to achieve the change, which is so necessary.