NHS EnglandLocal partnerships – made up of NHS organisations, local authorities and NHS England commissioners, working closely with people who use services, their families and providers – can now apply for transformation funding as they look to bring in new, high-quality, community services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

NHS England funding is also now available to help children and young people live in the comfort and security of more familiar surroundings, instead of being admitted to specialist units or residential schools, often a long way from home. 

This funding, it is hoped, will help more to children to avoid situations similar to what happened to Josh Wills. Josh was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two and began seriously self-harming around the age of 11. He was placed into specialist care in Birmingham but this meant his parents faced a 500-mile round trip to visit him from their home in Cornwall.

Josh’s dad, Phil, said: “For three years we had to leave Josh early on Christmas Eve to drive back to Cornwall. I can’t tell you what a pain that was. Now he’s come home, the signs of the old, cheeky Josh are back and I’ll never tire of seeing him playing with his brothers and sisters, his Nan and Pa. 

“Physically and emotionally he’s so much better, he sounds better and is eating better. His self-harming has improved and when people see photos of him they say ‘look at the sparkle in his eyes’. It’s taken a lot of people to get to where we are now and I want other families in the same situation to get the smiles back on their faces. 

“There’s no doubt the best use of money for the care of children like Josh is to be close to their friends, family and the people they grew up with in a loving environment. At home, not a hospital.

“I didn’t want to have to fight so hard to get Josh back. It didn’t have to be like that but now the people and services around Josh are sitting around the table and working together. I’d like to see that happening in every county.

“Parents shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help because they think there’s a threat of their children being sent away. The families I’ve met in similar positions all want the same thing, they just want to be together, not just at Christmas but all year round.”

The funding will help to strengthen children’s services, but will also benefit people at every stage of life. In 2016, £10 million of transformation funding was allocated, meaning local areas have already been developing their schemes. Examples include local community crisis teams offering personalised home treatment and joined-up approaches to bring patients, like Josh, who have been placed in care outside of their region, back to their own communities.

In the south of England, £500,000 has been supporting these efforts and one person to benefit so far is James, 58, from North Somerset. 

James’ moderate learning disabilities and challenging behaviour require a high level of supportive care in hospital but this required him to stay as an inpatient in Cardiff, miles away from his home.

Using the Transforming Care funding, the local partners were able to provide a specially equipped bungalow far closer to his home area in Somerset, putting in place carers to support him during the day and night. He had input into how his new home would be furnished and it was decorated to fit in with James’ likes. 

In August 2016, James was able to move into his new home. He has settled in well and has regained some independence. His condition has improved and he enjoys making his own breakfast, going out for walks and has developed a keen interest in painting and drawing. 

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England and chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board, said: “This latest funding is about giving local NHS organisations and councils the means to deliver on their ambitions and those of people living with particularly complex health needs. But this can’t just be about money, it is vital that all services and care organisations are working successfully together. 

“The focus on keeping children and young people at home with their families is a really important step in improving services. If we can get our approach right from the beginning, it gives us the basis for improving care throughout people’s lives.”  

This is the latest milestone in the ongoing cross-system Transforming Care programme, which has seen a number of reforms including the roll out of Care and Treatment.

In England, about 24,000 people who have a learning disability and/or autism are classed as being at risk of admission. Latest official figures showed that 2,550 people were in inpatient settings as of October 31, 2016. 

There are 48 Transforming Care Partnerships tasked with improving services in way that reflects the wishes and circumstances of local residents. NHS England has also made £100 million of capital funding available over 5 years to support Transforming Care project, with more than £20 million already earmarked for schemes across the country in 2016/17, including new housing and services.