More rights for learning disabled

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Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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New proposals to strengthen the rights of people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions are to be put forward to the public to “end the horror of families feeling that they aren’t listened to”, the Government will announce today.

“No voice unheard, no right ignored” aims to give people a stronger voice, more rights and more control, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb will say.

The consultation comes in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal, which exposed an appalling catalogue of abuse of patients by staff at the Gloucestershire private hospital .

Proposed measures include putting people in charge of their care and putting their needs at the heart of the decision-making process, helping them to live independently and giving clear accountability and responsibility throughout the system.

The green paper will also look at w hether there should be changes to the way the Mental Health Act applies to people with learning disabilities and autism and seek views on funding to help people get discharged from hospital.

Mr Lamb said: “This is fundamentally about transferring power to people and away from institutions. We have to end the horror of families feeling that they aren’t listened to, that their concerns are ignored.

“Just because an individual is sectioned under the Mental Health Act shouldn’t mean that the family is excluded.”

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Viv Cooper, chief executive at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said in a joint statement: “We welcome the Government’s recognition that a serious imbalance of power exists within the system, leading to the voices of individuals and their families often being ignored, with devastating consequences.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to address serious legal issues, such as whether autism and learning disability should constitute grounds for section, when neither are a mental illness. It is also welcome that the consultation seeks to clarify and strengthen the legal rights of people with a learning disability to challenge admissions and be supported to live independently in their local community.

“However, whilst this consultation is important, where changes in the law are needed to deliver new rights, this could take years and is not guaranteed.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “The scandal at Winterbourne View shocked the country and led to the Government committing, and failing, to end inappropriate placements and transfer people to community-based support by a deadline of last summer.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that this will only happen when individuals and families have more control over their placements. So it’s promising that this consultation suggests introducing clearer rights to challenge admissions and to seek transfer or discharge, while also recognising that discharge and care should be planned for from the point of admission. It’s also positive that the Government is considering a duty on health and social care commissioners to think about how they can ensure appropriate levels of community based support are available.

“We urge people with autism and their families to respond to the consultation and the Government to listen to what they have to say.

“Whoever forms the next Government must carefully consider people’s views and act quickly if it’s to end unnecessary and potentially damaging hospitalisation and help people with autism to live the life they choose.”

Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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