As more inspection reports from the Care Quality Commission(CQC) reveal that only a minority of residential facilities for people with a learning disability are fully compliant with essential standards, the case for change is becoming overwhelming.
While this is a subject I keep returning to - usually when a batch of reports is published by the CQC - I make no apologies, as I fee it is vitally important to do so. It is becoming increasingly clear that there are major problems with residential facilities for people with a learning disability in this country and that these problems need to be addressed now. But given the current levels of inaction it is a point that needs to be hammered home, especially to those in power.
A quick recap: so far, 86 inspection reports have been published, focusing on 2 of the Government's 7 essential standards of care: care and welfare of residents, and safeguarding.This means that more than half of the CQC's planned 150 inspection shave been completed - and in the main, the resulting reports don't make for happy reading. Only 21 residential facilities inspected were compliant with both standards - the ones providers are supposed to meet by law, remember - which is less than 25%.
While many of the concerns flagged by the CQC inspectors have been 'minor' these are failings nonetheless. As I've said before,the essential standards are supposed to be a baseline, not abenchmark to aspire to.
However, it should be noted that since the original inspections, many of the services have improved and now meet the essential standard. But you have to wonder how many of these facilities would still be providing sub-standard services if the Panorama programme on Winterbourne View hadn't been broadcast last year. Many, I suspect. Would theCQC's 'light-touch' regulation still be in place? Probably. Would this still be a hidden problem? Definitely.
But it isn't hidden anymore. Action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. And It should be noted that failings are found right across the sector in both publicly and privately-run homes, which says to me that it'sthe entire model of care that needs changing.
I'm not alone.Learning disability charities Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation have repeatedly called for a move away from institutional care "where people are hidden away out of sight and mind" and towards local services. They add that it is crucial the Government ensures changes are made to reduce the likelihood of the abuses seen at Winterbourne View, recurring in the future.
They're right. The Government has to intervene , because it seems that the residential sector, commissioners et al are incapable of doing it for themselves. The necessary change has to be driven from the top, through policy and legislation. Government also needs to ensure, in the meantime, that abuse in institutions is met with the right level of response - and the right level of judicial penalty.
At the moment, many people with learning disabilities living in residential facilities are receiving sub-standard care and this has to end. If nothing happens, then it is not a case of if another Winterbourne View happens, but when. The time for talk is over. Action is needed now.