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

Learning disability experts call for abuse action

Leading individuals and organisations in the learning disability field have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to instigate action in response to the abuse of people with learning disabilities in Winterbourne View.

In an open letter to Cameron, signed by 86 individuals and organisations, a programme of action is described that the signatories believe is necessary to prevent a repetition of such abuse – as exposed in a recent Panorama programme – and to help ensure that people with learning disabilities are supported to live their lives as equal citizens in their community. The letter describes 15 sets of actions that together aim to:

  • Stop the use of learning disability hospitals such as Winterbourne View
  • Instigate a two-year programme to ensure that the NHS and local government work together to ensure they deliver high-quality, individualised and local services for people with the greatest needs
  • Place the voice of people with learning disabilities and families at the centre of decision-making about their lives
  • Reform the regulatory framework in order to place a greater emphasis on quality of life and service improvement
  • Immediate support for those people and their families who have been subjected to this abuse
  • Short-term action to ensure standards in learning disability institutional provision pending its replacement with more appropriate services.

Gavin Harding, co-chair of the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities said: “People with learning disabilities and families should be listened to more and involved in inspections.”

Cally Ward, on behalf of the National Valuing Families Forum, added: “This unprecedented level of unanimity across the learning disability field shows the level of horror felt by people across the UK. Publicly-funded services that allow this type of abuse must clearly be brought to an end.”

Meanwhile, Keith Smith, chief executive of the British Institute for Learning Disabilities said that there is clear evidence that services such as that at Winterbourne View do not work in terms of either outcomes for people or value for money. “Policy already calls for individualised, local services for people with the greatest needs and our programme of action urges Government to ensure that this policy is delivered across England.”

David Congdon, head of campaigns at Mencap said “Many of the actions we propose are already Government policy – policy that simply is not being implemented at a local level. Other ideas are logical steps forward in the light of the Panorama programme – such as preventing future placements in learning disability hospitals and in the interim requiring everyone in such institutions to have access to an independent advocate.”

The full letter can be seen here:

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