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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Take this opportunity to improve lives

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Autism strategy, Consultations and surveys, Mental health

Social Care News is pleased to share Gavin Harding (MBE)'s foreword from the recently published green paper 'No voice unheard, no right ignored - a consultation for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions.' As co-chair of the Transforming Care Assurance Board, Gavin offers a powerful endorsement of the consultation's aims, based on his own experiences of good and bad care.

Gavin Harding, MBE: Make the lives of all people with disabilities a good life without barriers. Take this opportunity to improve our lives – whoever is in Government.
Gavin Harding, MBE: 'Make the lives of all people with disabilities a good life without barriers. Take this opportunity to improve our lives – whoever is in government.'

As someone who has been in assessment and treatment units (ATUs) as a patient – and I have experienced a few – this paper is very close to my heart. It should have been done a long time ago for people with learning disabilities.

Right from the start of the Transforming Care programme, set up after the review into the horrific events of Winterbourne View hospital, I have been highlighting issues that are now in this paper and very much on the agenda of the Transforming Care Programme, for example restricted (Ministry of Justice) patients. But this isn’t just about Winterbourne View. We must not forget the scandals and abuse cases before or since.

I hope to see this paper changing a lot of things for people with learning disabilities, mental health needs or autism about some of England’s worst care.

I think it has not mattered who the Government was, this has been going on for far too long across several governments: people not having any choice in how they are treated or supported or where they live, people being moved out of their local area to miles away, people being locked away from their families in hospital units, people, in a small minority of places, being abused by staff.

But I have seen good ATUs, including in my own area. These are often small mental health units. They are community led and meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and have good practices in place. I believe smaller units, and supporting more people in the community, as they do in places like Salford, should be possible everywhere. Larger units should be reducing or closing. I know there are some great learning disability and mental health nurses and other staff who are working at the moment in inpatient units but who could easily transfer their skills into the community to make this model happen right across the country.

We should also not forget that there are also children and young people in inpatient units too. We have to change the system for everyone from 0 to 100 years old.

Whoever is in government needs to look at the recommendations of Sir Stephen Bubb in his report Winterbourne View – Time for Change and the responses from people to this consultation and use them to change how we commission services and support people in the future. We closed NHS campuses and long stay hospitals. But we now have some very large ATUs. We must not make the same mistakes again. Equally, we must not find we end up with very large organisations as providers in the community which are not responsive to individuals. Local commissioners need to start helping to make sure there are many, high quality, responsive local community providers not big institutions.

We should not allow scandals like Winterbourne View to be repeated. I, and everyone else with learning disability hope to see this end and to start to see everyone with a learning disability or autism or with mental health needs being treated with respect and dignity equal to any other human being. We have the same rights as anyone else. After all, we are not just a label. We are not someone you can treat differently. We are human beings. We have an entitlement to a life just like you. Make the lives of all people with disabilities a good life without barriers. Take this opportunity to improve our lives – whoever is in government. Let’s not continue to repeat history and make the same mistakes.

This consultation closes 29 May 2015, 11.45pm 

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