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Care minister acknowledges system failures during Parliamentary debate on abuse of people with learning disabilities

The abuse and ill-treatment of people with a learning disability in assessment and treatment units like Winterbourne View were debated by MPs last night.

Responding to the House of Commons debate, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow described the abuse of patients at Winterbourne View as “horrifying and depressing”, and acknowledged the need to “look critically at the system that has allowed out-of-area placement to grow to the extent that it has, which has allowed such abuse to go unnoticed in some places for too long.”

Burstow referenced the recent report Out of Sight, co-authored by Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, which showed that institutional-style services had let people with learning disabilities down. The report argued that there are systemic failures in the care of people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges.  

Paul Burstow said that every part of the system, including NHS and social care commissioners, providers, regulators and health and care professionals, has a part to play.  

The House of Commons debate was secured by the Rt Hon Tom Clarke, Labour MP and co-chairman of the all party group on learning disability. He outlined the personal stories of a number of people with a learning disability who had experienced abuse and neglect, both at Winterbourne View and at similar units elsewhere. He said they had been “collectively let down”.

Rt Hon Tom Clarke, Labour MP said:  

“It is nothing short of a national scandal that we've allowed people with learning disabilities to be so marginalised and ill treated…The current care model, and the regulation of it, led to these abuses. It is the system that we are challenging.”

Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation are calling on the Government to urgently address systemic failings in the care of people with a learning disability, by closing large institutions and developing appropriate local services.

The joint report, Out of Sight, details a number of serious incidences reported by families, including physical assault, sexual abuse and the overuse of restraint – both physical and in terms of overuse of medication. It also explores the plight of families to have their loved ones moved closer to home. The report can be viewed here.

A full transcript of last night’s House of Commons debate can be found here

To download the full press release, click here.

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