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People with a Learning Disability and Autistic People: Support Action Plan

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

Today I am delighted to announce the publication of the “Building the right support” action plan. This action plan aims to reduce reliance on in-patient care in mental health hospitals for people with a learning disability and autistic people of all ages by building the right support in the community.

People with a learning disability and autistic people should live in their own home and have the right support in place to live an ordinary life. This includes access to education, employment and other opportunities which help people to fulfil their aspirations. We know these aspirations are not currently being met.

The action plan brings together the commitments that have been made by different partners to realise this aim.

We want this action plan to support the NHS long-term plan commitment to achieve a 50% net reduction in the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people being cared for in an in-patient unit by the end of March 2024. There may be times when admission to a mental health hospital is necessary and has a therapeutic benefit. Where this is the case, we are clear that this care should be of high quality, the least restrictive possible and for the shortest time possible. It should also be close to home so that a connection can be maintained with family, friends, and their local community.

Too often we have heard that the care of people with a learning disability and autistic people in specialist mental health in-patient care has fallen far short of the standards we would expect. Instances of abuse or poor care, as seen in appalling cases such as Winterbourne View, Whorlton Hall and Cawston Park, are unacceptable. I am determined that, working with our partners, we do everything we can stop this from happening again. I am pleased the NHS is taking action to avoid admitting people with a learning disability and autistic people to hospital settings rated inadequate by the CQC unless, in exceptional circumstances, it is in the best interests of the individual and their family and is being done with their involvement.

In the manifesto, we committed to improving how people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law and to making it easier for them to be discharged from hospital. Our proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act will support this by ensuring people with a learning disability and autistic people can only be detained where there is a clear mental health need and by creating new duties on commissioners to ensure that there are sufficient community-based services in their local area to support people with a learning disability and autistic people.

Delivering “Building the right support” is a joint endeavour—no one organisation can make this happen on their own. The “Building the right support” delivery board, which I chair, brings together organisations with the levers to make change happen. The board will have oversight of the implementation of this plan.

The action plan includes:

work to ensure that people with a learning disability and autistic people receive high quality

care and support, and are safe;

a commitment to make it easier to leave hospital when people are ready;

what is being done to enable people to live an ordinary life in the community, for example

with the right housing and support;

specific activities to enable a good start to life, including early diagnosis and positive :

experiences of education;

reforms across Government to make wider improvements, such as the Mental Health Act and adult social care reforms; and,

work and changes to deliver increased integration and join-up across systems.

We also recognise that the way that funding flows through and across the health and social care system can impact on the provision of support and people’s overall experiences of care. To support this, we commissioned an independent consultancy organisation to undertake a rapid review of funding flows. I am pleased that we have been able to publish the report alongside the plan today and I will work with the delivery board to take forward action in response to the findings.