Person with a learning disability and support worker in kitchen
Photo credit: Leeds Autism Services

Clive Parry, ARC England Director

4th February 2021

The most recent published data by NHS Digital learning-disability-services-statistics reports that there are 2055 people in inpatient care in England, a small reduction in the position 12 months ago when the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stated that the Government had breached the rights of people with learning disabilities and autism by failing to meet targets to move them out of hospital. Notably, more than half of the people with a learning disability or autism in hospital had been there for over two years in total (1,215).

The EHRC argued that by failing to meet the target, the Department of Health and Social Care had violated these people’s rights to private and family life (Article 8) and to live free from inhuman or degrading treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

While providers and policy makers recognise that the ambitions of the Transforming Care programme focus on changing things across the whole system, there are clear signs that decision making is still driven by the way the money is managed.

In order to leave inpatient care, a person with a learning disability, autism or both needs to demonstrate that they have engaged with treatment. However, it is possible for this treatment to be be provided in a way that is not meaningful to the person, meaning that someone who could live in a home that is less like an institution ends up remaining in a locked setting.

There have been some amazing examples of what can be achieved when multi-disciplinary teams, local commissioners and providers all work together in a determined way to put in place the support that a learning-disabled adult or young person needs to live within the community.

For example, a person who required support on a three-to-one basis in an Assessment and Treatment Unit, so that they and the people around them could stay safe, was able to move in to the community with the right support in place and was able to live safely and well with one-to-one support.

ARC is proud to represent providers of services for people with learning disabilities, autism or both.  The creative ways in which our members have supported people when behaviours of concern have escalated during the pandemic are the very solutions that are needed when it comes to helping someone move out of a locked setting and into a home of their own.

We welcome this renewed focus on what we as a society said we would do following the Winterbourne View scandal, and what still needs to be done to reach the position where everyone with a learning disability who is able to live in the community is supported to do so.