11 Jan 2019

The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism – VODG welcomes the recommendations of Joint Committee on Human Rights report

The NHS England and NHS Improvement ‘transforming care’ programme has left people with a learning disability, autism or mental ill health languishing in long-stay inpatient units, sometimes in horrendous conditions. The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) report describes the inappropriate detention of people as causing “suffering and does long term damage”.

VODG has long-argued that this must stop and has urged government to act on the recommendations of the JCHR immediately, particularly around reform of the Care Quality Commission's approach and processes – a theme that VODG has previously highlighted – and the establishment of a Number 10 Unit, to urgently drive forward the Committee’s recommendations.

Reducing the number of people with a learning disability, autism or mental ill health is a target set out in the NHS Long Term plan, however, the Committee found it has “no confidence” that this target will be met and “the biggest barrier to progress is a lack of political focus and accountability to drive change.”

VODG chief executive Rhidian Hughes said:

“It is often said that the true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The failure of the transforming care programme is blighting the lives of over 2000 people. To put this in context this equates to nearly half the population of a town like Keswick. What other area of policy implementation would be left significantly unaddressed by ministers for so many years?

“The national scandals involving the abuse of disabled people living in long-stay units must be stopped it is only through the levers of government and realistic investment that substantial progress can be made.

“Previous governments acted on the scandal of long stay hospitals with legislation and funding, if they do not do the same today, then the message is crystal clear that these people do not matter to government.”

The full report of the Committee can be read here.VODG’s earlier report, Transforming care: the challenges and solutions, is based on the experience of VODG members and sets out how people can be supported to move out of long-stay institutions.