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Connect is our new newsletter, created during Covid-19. Originally it was designed to help people understand government updates and also packed with things to do like relaxation exercises, puzzles, message boards, poems and recipes - all designed to keep people connected during that unprecedented time. It now includes all our events and activities, with a booking page at the end. If you click on the buttons below, you can download all of the issues available.
Government policy and people with learning disabilities
At People First Dorset we want to ensure that the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard – not only in our local communities but also on a wider, national platform. One of our Trustees, Hazel Morgan has put together a paper on Government policy as it affects the lives of people with learning disabilities. Here is a summary of the paper. You can download the full version here.
In 2015 NHS England, the Local Government Association (LGA) and The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) launched Building the Right Support. It sets out a Framework for developing community based services for all people with learning disabilities. This is widely regarded as underpinning current policy.
Four key principles have formed the basis of government policy for people with learning disabilities over the last 19 years: Rights, Independence, Choice and Inclusion. These were set out in 2001 in Valuing People, A New Strategy for the 21st Century (The Human Rights Act 1998, The Mental Capacity Act 2005, The Equality Act 2010, The Care Act 2014, The Children and Families Act 2014 also support these aims). Extra resources were put in place and the lives of many people with learning disabilities improved.
The ending of the funding from Valuing People from 2012 together with a downturn in the economy and changes to the benefit system and most recently the impact of Covid 19 have resulted in a reduction of opportunities and support for some people with learning disabilities.
Additionally, despite the closure of long stay hospitals in the last century, in 2011 there were still 3,400 people with complex needs in NHS funded Assessment and Treatment Units, often for a long period of time and far from home. Panorama revealed a serious scandal at Winterbourne View, one of these units, where people with learning disabilities were being shockingly abused.
The Transforming Care programme from 2012 set out courses of action to reduce these placements. However, progress was slow. In 2019, the BBC uncovered a horrific scandal, this time at Whorlton Hall Hospital while in September 2020 the CQC reported dreadful abuse at the Cygnet Yew Trees Hospital, NHS funded Assessment and Treatment Unit in Essex which was run by the same company. Today, over 2,000 people still remain in such units despite the current policy set out in Building the Right Support to make appropriate provision within the community.
Whilst these scandals need to be urgently addressed and people given the support they need, there has been a lack of focus on many aspects of the lives of people with learning disabilities living in their local communities. These include the need for housing and support, experiences of hate crime, shortcomings in healthcare and barriers to employment.
The pandemic has highlighted further serious concerns. For example, people with learning disabilities were six times more likely to die that the general population; in some instances. blanket Do Not Resuscitate notices were applied; some were not prioritised for the vaccine roll out; some services were withdrawn, and they and their families became isolated.
Money has been allocated from 2022 to health and social care as a result of Build Back Better, but for the first three years the majority of the money will be allocated to helping the NHS recover. More detailed planning is needed for the support of adults of working age.
The Green Paper, No Voice Unheard: No Right Ignored in 2015, clearly stated four key principles for supporting people with learning disabilities:
People in charge, supported by family and friends
Inclusion and independence in the community
The right care in the right place
Very clear accountability and responsibility throughout the system
In 2021, renewed energy and focus is needed to put these principles in place for everyone. There is still a huge amount of work to be done to deliver rights, independence, choice and inclusion and with your help, People First Dorset can ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities in Dorset and Somerset are heard and issues addressed.