The abuse suffered by people with learning disabilities in ‘assessment and referral centres’ has been well documented by two BBC Panorama investigations and a report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The social care sector has been united behind the message that such facilities, which are often much larger than family homes, based out of town and run on medical lines, should have no place in the modern world. They represent an outdated model of care in which it is difficult for people to experience ordinary family and community life. They are places which are likely to foster abuse and neglect, as confirmed by the CQC report on 145 units, which found that 48% of all locations inspected were non-compliant with minimum standards for the care and welfare of people who use services and safeguarding people who use services from abuse. Units designed for short-term assessment and onward referral are charging exorbitant weekly rates of up to £5,000 for low-outcome support which in some cases has lasted for years.
The Shared Lives sector and KeyRing Living Support Networks are two models which have been used successfully to enable people labelled as ‘challenging’ or who have ‘complex needs’ to move out of institutional settings into ordinary family homes and communities. These moves enable people to develop independent living skills, make new friends and move on with their lives, saving thousands of pounds in the process. This briefing outlines how these successful approaches, along with other community-based approaches should be used as part of person-centred support planning to consign the vast majority of assessment and referral units to history.