That a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report said that the quality of learning disability services varies widely across the country, and is not improving quickly enough, will not have been a surprise to anyone. Nor is the call for urgent remedial action unexpected.
The CQC’s Care Update found that, while there has been some improvement by those delivering services for people with learning disabilities, there are still too many independent services not delivering care that puts people first.
To echo what several commentators have already said – among them Molly Mattingly from the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities – this is unacceptable.
We have also been here before. Many times.
In the past couple of years alone I – and many others – have written on numerous occasions about how change is urgently needed in learning disability residential services. That I am still writing about it shows that not enough has been done, and that change is now even more desperately required.
Perhaps most frustratingly, what constitutes best practice in the sector is well known but still isn’t standard across the board. Over the years, the Government has set out examples of best practice in reports, as have various others including charities, service providers and academics. It isn’t as if such practice is some hidden holy grail.
So, why isn’t it being implemented? As ever, the reasons are complex, but Steve Scown, chief executive of service provider Dimensions, hit on one of the main factors: “Until the decision-makers responsible for commissioning support are ready and able to focus on the needs of people requiring support, on support that enables not disables and work in partnership with best practice providers to find innovative solutions to the challenges we share, change will continue to be too slow and too late for too many people.”
This echoes what Jan Tregelles, acting chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, founder of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said in a joint statement about local commissioners having a responsibility to take urgent action to develop support and services to that follow best practice standards.
Of course, this is easier said than done – good services aren’t developed overnight – but commissioners should at least have plans in place for change, given the timetable for reform that the Government outlined in its response to the Winterbourne View scandal last November.
Times are tight – and will get tighter when the next financial year begins next month – but that should just mean commissioners work more closely with providers and people with learning disabilities to find the best way forward.
As numerous examples have shown, improved services can be delivered and don’t have to cost more. Not securing best practice simply means that people with learning disabilities continue to be failed.