The Government have made improving the care and treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities a priority. Society is rightly judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
Health and social care professionals have a crucial role to play in helping people with learning disabilities and autistic people lead longer, heathier and happier lives. We know there is good practice out there and excellent examples of staff working incredibly hard and supporting individuals and their families to receive the best possible care. However, staff can often lack the training or experience to deliver effective and compassionate care, resulting in significant health inequalities for people with learning disabilities and autistic people and poorer health outcomes.
In February this year, my Department published a public consultation to obtain views on how best to ensure that staff working in health and social care receive the right training to understand the needs of people with learning disabilities and autistic people and develop the skills to provide the most effective care and support. The consultation ran for 10 weeks, closing on 26 April 2019.
I am pleased to say there was an excellent response to the consultation. We received over 5,000 responses from a range of key stakeholders as well as individual members of the public and I am grateful to those who took the time to respond to the consultation. I am also pleased to confirm that the overwhelming majority of responses were supportive of the principle of mandatory training.
Today, we are publishing the Government response to the consultation, confirming our intention to introduce mandatory learning disability and autism training. A copy of the response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Our vision is that in future all professionals will, before starting their career or through continuing professional development, undertake training which covers a “common core curriculum” for learning disability and autism so that we can be confident there is consistency across education and training curricula.
We are committing to work with all professional bodies and the devolved Administrations to agree a common core curriculum based on the core capability frameworks for supporting people with a learning disability and autistic people. We recognise that it will take time to ensure that all training is aligned with the frameworks; with periodic updates to syllabuses and training requirements, but we will work with the regulators to ensure the closest possible alignment at the earliest opportunity.
Like everybody across the House, I have been moved by the personal stories about how care and treatment has been experienced by people with learning disabilities and autistic people, which in some cases has resulted in the worst possible outcomes. Cases like that of Oliver McGowan, whose story captures why learning disability and autism training is so important. I can announce that we will be developing a high-quality training package that will be named in Oliver’s memory.
I am also pleased to confirm that we are committing £1.4 million to develop and run a series of trials across both the NHS and social care setting, so that we better understand the impacts before implementation and a wider roll out.
To make the training mandatory we are proposing a number of actions, recognising that different approaches are required for different staff groups. Further detail on this, and the proposals above, is set out in the consultation response.
We need to ensure that those who work in health and social care understand the needs of people with learning disabilities and autistic people, how their needs can differ from the general population and for staff to be able to respond to those needs appropriately and positively. I believe the action we intend to take will do just that and ensure that everybody with autism or a learning disability receives the high-quality care they have a right to expect.