With the Care Quality Commission (CQC) nearing the end of its inspection programme of residential units for people with learning disabilities, and the trial of those accused of abuse at Winterbourne View coming up, are we getting closer to some real change being made in residential services? Perhaps.
As is becoming routine for a Wednesday, CQC today released another batch of inspection reports on residential facilities for people with learning disabilities. With only 10 more of its 150 reports to be published, the CQC’s national report into the state of residential care should hopefully not be too long in coming.
When it is published, it should make for compelling – if uncomfortable – reading for everyone involved in the learning disability residential sector. With a distinct trend having emerged that only about 20-25% of facilities are fully compliant with care, welfare and safeguarding standards, it may not paint a pretty picture.
And, the various reviews of Winterbourne View that have been undertaken since the scandal broke on May 31 last year, including the local authority serious case review and the Department of Health’s own review, should be published sometime in the summer/autumn. These reports are expected to be released once the trial – planned for the summer – of those accused of abuse at Winterbourne View has concluded.
Then there is the long-awaited adult social care White Paper. We have been consistently told that it will be launched in the “spring”, but there are feelings that this deadline may slip.
Nevertheless, once all the above have been published, there should be a chance to make some effective reforms to learning disability residential care services. While there have been calls for reform for many years, which became a clamour after Winterbourne View, everything has been on hold until the results of the reviews have been published.
Over the years, the case for reform has been laid out many times, and in many forms, particularly in the late Professor Jim Mansell’s reports of 1993 and 2007. But, as numerous people have pointed out on many occasions, while reports advocating and talking of change is one thing, what is really needed is action.
These reports will give the reform agenda fresh impetus, but if any large-scale change is to follow, it will need to be driven by the Government. This is not an occasion on which the new government’s preferred option of standing back from service issues will work. Those in Westminster must have a clear plan, and an implementation timetable, to ensure that learning disability residential care – across the country – is reformed and standards are raised.
This is the crux – is there the appetite within Government to grasp this problem and deal with it? Without such action, cases like Winterbourne View will – without any question – continue to arise.
With these publication dates for these reviews on the horizon, reform may seem closer than it has done for some time, but yet could still not happen. Only time will tell.