This column first appeared in the LGC on 10 March 2016 – you can view it on their website 

No-one should ever forget the scandal of treatment of people with learning disabilities and autism at Winterbourne View. Those failings led to a fundamental review of how to provide long-term care for those with such disabilities who display behaviour that challenges, and the development of the Transforming Care Programme. The Programme focuses on the major principle that a hospital is not a home – community alternatives must be available to make sure that long-stay hospital placements are no longer necessary.

A new Service Model has been co-produced by people who use services, their families and carers, commissioners and health and social care leaders to make sure that the needs of the patient are always at the heart of any treatment plan. This will focus on giving people choice over their lives and their care, getting them the support that they need – when they need it – and making sure that their lives are good and meaningful.  

A lot of hard work has been going on across the country, with Transforming Care “fast-track” areas trialling new approaches to planning future services. The learning from these experiences was published in “Building the Right Support” – a national implementation plan to make sure that community services are developed and inpatient facilities are closed across the country as part of the Transforming Care Programme. Local authorities and CCGs are now working together in Transforming Care Partnerships, based on geographic footprints that work for local people, in local communities, to protect and align the funds available. These Partnerships are currently honing their plans for community based services. ADASS, along with the Local Government Association, is keen to support local authorities in these discussions through our national learning disability policy network.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people in Enfield who, working closely with local people over many years, have made profound reductions in the number and length of admissions. Their exceptional partnership with people with lived experience and their families and carers was highlighted during a recent visit by Jane Cummings, England’s Chief Nursing Officer and Chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board. It is their efforts that have repeatedly led me to implore colleagues across the sector that we can make meaningful, independent lives a reality across the entire country.

The challenge for all of us now is to turn plans into action, doing all that we can to ensure independent and inclusive lives for all people with learning disabilities and autism. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I’ve no doubt that the desire and momentum for change is there to make a better, person-centred approach to care a reality.

Ray James
ADASS President