Minister to consult on changing law to transform learning disability care post-Winterbourne

Norman Lamb promises green paper on potential reforms early in 2015 as latest blueprint for change is published by NHS England

Care and support minister Norman Lamb
Care and support minister Norman Lamb. Photo: Rex/Albanpix Ltd

The government is to consult on changing the law to transform care for people with learning disabilities or autism placed in hospitals.

As the latest blueprint for transforming care for this group was published by NHS England today, care minister Norman Lamb promised to publish a green paper on options for legislative change early in 2015.

The green paper is likely to look at ways in which the people can challenge decisions about their care and receive support in their communities, rather than inpatient settings, unless hospital care is necessary, and commissioning can be improved.

Speaking today, Lamb said:

It is unacceptable for people with learning disabilities and autism to be left in institutions if they can live in their own home or in the community. I am going to consult on changing the law to speed up delivery of the Winterbourne View commitments – to see people living in the community wherever possible and able to challenge decisions about their care.

The move is the government’s latest attempt to transform care for people with learning disabilities or autism and additional mental health needs – 2,600 of whom are placed in hospitals in England – in the wake of Winterbourne View. A target to end inappropriate hospital placements for this group by June 2014 was widely missed.

Today’s report, produced by a steering group commissioned by NHS England, proposed providing service users with a “charter of rights”, including the right to challenge decisions to place them, including the right to challenge inpatient admissions.

A new law could put such or similar rights on a statutory footing, as proposed by the LB Bill campaign, set up in honour of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, a learning disabled man who died preventably in a hospital unit last year.

The LB Bill campaign wants to achieve two things in particular:

  • make it a legal reality for disabled people to be fully included in their communities;
  • make it harder for the state to force disabled people to leave their homes against their wishes, or the wishes of their families.

Members of the campaign met Lamb last week, where he shared his ideas for a green paper. In a blog post following the meeting the campaign said it welcomed the green paper plans, and said it would seek to ensure the key points of the LB Bill were taken on board.

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One Response to Minister to consult on changing law to transform learning disability care post-Winterbourne

  1. SweetTree November 28, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    SweetTree Home Care Services response to Winterbourne review

    SweetTree Home Care Services has responded to the ACEVO report – ‘Winterbourne View – Time for Change’ – by calling for a more proactive, positive approach to risk when reviewing the care needs of people with learning disabilities.

    Speaking about the report, Barry Sweetbaum, managing director of SweetTree Home Care Services, said:

    “Sir Stephen Bubb’s assessment of support for people with learning disabilities is absolutely correct. For too long people with learning disabilities have inappropriately been referred to residential inpatient institutions because of outdated views of risk and the opportunities which exist for successful community based living for people with learning disabilities

    “While it may seem easier to offer care in residential settings, there is extensive evidence that people with learning disabilities can thrive when well supported in their local communities. Sadly however, decisions about care placements are frequently based on negative assumptions about risk-taking rather than focusing on individual wellbeing and quality of life. We want to see all policies and services provided to individuals with learning disabilities to require personal choice, need and preference to be taken into account and subsequently evaluated on how well they meet this objective. The first step to achieve this is to eliminate the culture of blame that exists within the sector and move towards a system which rewards success and the personal development of those we are here to serve.”