Learning Disabilities Commissioner needed to champion and protect rights and reform
The author of the Bubb report today calls on the government to appoint a Learning Disabilities Commissioner. And says that the challenges of reforming support for the vulnerable are larger than first thought.
Sir Stephen Bubb’s original report followed the failure of Government to address the abuses revealed by the Winterbourne View scandal. His recommendations in ‘Winterbourne View – Time for Change’ (Nov 2014) suggested radical changes to the way the nation treats people with learning disabilities.
Today, Sir Stephen Bubb reports that subsequent proposals (Oct 2015) to deliver these changes are based on over-optimistic assumptions and demand the appointment of a Learning Disabilities Commissioner.
His findings are based on further research and consultation since the NHSE roadmap for change was first published in the Autumn.
The Bubb report, ‘Winterbourne View – Time for Change’, proposed two key reforms, broadly welcomed by the Government and NHSE.
The priorities were:
- the closure of inappropriate institutions and the ramping up of community provision.
- That Government legislate for a Charter of Rights for people with learning disabilities and their families.
In October 2015 NHSE stepped up to the plate and published a closure programme.
The Government has, however, yet to introduce the recommended legislation on rights. The need for this was recently underlined by the scandal of uninvestigated deaths among patients with learning disabilities in the care of the NHS Southern Health Trust.
Sir Stephen strongly welcomed the NHSE’s October announcement and subsequent commitments as step changes in progress. He has since undertaken an extensive consultation with those affected. He has travelled the country canvassing the opinions of people with learning disabilities, their relatives and service providers.
His report today ‘Time for Change – The Challenge Ahead’ details the findings of this consultation. His main recommendation calls on the Government to appoint a Learning Disabilities Commissioner. The underestimation of the challenge ahead is illustrated by the fact that In October the NHSE proposals were based on there being 2,600 people in institutional units. Research since shows that figure could be as much as 33 per cent higher at nearly 3,500.
‘The Challenge Ahead’ suggests that 10,000 extra members of staff will be needed to support people in their own community and that these staff need to be trained and equipped for the task.
Further, with at least 1,300 people expected to move out of hospital care by 2019 the report also details the critical need to deliver housing for the vulnerable. It says that housing for people with learning disabilities should be exempt from proposed Housing Benefit caps. The report details how additional housing provision might be delivered.
Sir Stephen also draws attention to the hundreds of thousands of children with learning disabilities and the challenges this could present to a sustainable future. Sir Stephen calls for a ‘prevention revolution’. This would see coherent and targeted early intervention preventing the need for future costly acute responses and resources.
Given the size of these challenges, and the failure to introduce a Charter of Rights, Sir Stephen says that nothing less than a Learning Disabilities Commissioner is required. The role would place a statutory duty on the holder to promote, enhance, and protect the rights of people with learning disabilities and their families in England and ensure the delivery of the reforms pledged by NHSE.
‘Time for Change – The Challenge Ahead’ will be launched at an event on Monday. Many of those recently consulted by Sir Stephen - people with learning disabilities, their relatives, carers, past and future service providers - and the Shadow Health Minister Luciana Berger will be present.
Commenting, Sir Stephen Bubb said: “I am calling for an office of a Learning Disabilities Commissioner to be established. Just as a Children’s Commissioner was established following the Victoria Climbie Inquiry, there is a firm argument for establishing this post. It would have a statutory duty to promote and protect the rights of all people with learning disabilities and their families."
“I have spoken directly to people whose experience of these services goes back far beyond 2011 and Winterbourne View. So this report expresses the views and experiences of the people most affected by change. I am still shocked by the way we as a society have condoned poor or abusive treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
“That’s why I want a Commissioner."
“As recent revelations from Southern Health Trust have shown there’s still a long way to go before the system can be trusted, and we still have a long way to go in convincing people with learning disabilities that change will happen. I’m confident the base for change is now there. My further report makes proposals to ensure such change happens. ”