Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Government urged to close learning disability institutional services

The government should replace institutional services for people with learning disabilities with community-based supported living services, which are more effective, safer and cheaper, a campaigning body has claimed.

The Association for Supported Living (ASL), which represents organisations that support about 30,000 people with learning disabilities, has written to every MP in reaction to the recent case of Winterbourne View residential hospital in Bristol, where alleged abuse was exposed in a BBC Panorama programme.

The ASL said that the case was not just about rogue staff and weak management, and was not an isolated case. “Rather, it is about the innate failings of institutional care, a model still in operation across the country. But there is an alternative; a civilized, life-enhancing, proven and cost-effective alternative already offered by dozens of established care providers,” the ASL said.

The letter provided examples of successful personalised, community-based support living services that cost less than would have been the case had the service user remained in institutional care. In conclusion, the ASL said that people with learning disabilities in institutional care are in environments where they are vulnerable because “the model of care is flawed. “Panorama, however shocking, was not a surprise. It simply revealed a replica of the scandals that dogged NHS mental handicap institutions in past decades. So, we call on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to compel commissioners to set a timetable for the provision of alternative, community-based services for all of these people.” The ASL will publish a report this autumn with further evidence to support its position.

Kim Foo, chair of the ASL said: “The message is simple and clear and unequivocal – there is another way – we are presenting to the Government evidence of a substantial number of alternatives to the abusive institution seen on Panorama in May.”

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