normanlambCare Services Minister Norman Lamb has visited an ex-resident of former private hospital Winterbourne View in his new supported living home.

Sam Sollars was a patient at Winterbourne View near Bristol, when the abuse of people with a learning disability was uncovered by BBC Panorama in June 2011. The resulting criminal case brought about the conviction of 11 former care workers, with 6 receiving custodial sentences.

Sam has made great progress since being removed from an institutional environment and now lives in his own flat within a specialist autism residential care service run by Homes Caring for Autism, which is helping him to develop the skills he needs to live as independently as possible. His next step would be to rent his own flat out in the community, with appropriate support.

Steve Sollars, Sam’s father, campaigned heavily for justice following the Panorama programme. He said: “It's great to see Norman Lamb going out of his way to listen to parents like me. It's important for him to meet people like my son Sam, who was in Winterbourne View, to see how well he can do with the right care.”

In its final response to the Winterbourne View scandal, published in December 2012, the government committed to a programme of action to ensure that individuals who are still in assessment and treatment centres are moved into more appropriate settings in the community, with good plans for person centred care, no later than June 1, 2014.

By now, health and care commissioners should have reviewed the care of all these individuals and agreed a plan for each person involving them and their families.

Before the visit, Lamb said he was looking forward to meeting Sam and seeing the progress he has made with the right care and support.

“What happened at Winterbourne View was shocking and we have to make sure that we have the right policies, practices and culture in place to root out bad care and treat people with learning disabilities with the respect they deserve. 

“We are making good progress and by next June all people with learning disabilities or autism and ‘challenging behaviour’ placed in hospital settings, will have had their needs reviewed and will be given support to help them back into the community or the right place for them.”

Richard Smith, Managing Director and founder, Homes Caring for Autism, said: “Many lessons have been learned from Winterbourne View. It’s also important to know that there are many fantastic person-centred residential care and supported living services where, through specialist knowledge and dedicated, hard-working staff, individuals such as Sam can safely enjoy their lives.”

Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation want to see all people with a learning disability and behaviour which challenges getting the right support.

Simon Parkinson, director for external relations and communities at Mencap, welcomed Lamb's commitment to the issue and to hold to account any local areas that don't meet their obligations. “All local councils need to provide the support that people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges need to realise their right to live fully integrated lives in the community, like Sam.”