Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation respond to National Audit Office report on Government progress since 2012 Winterbourne View Concordat


Today the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report titled “Care services for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour” on whether key Government commitments in the 2012 Winterbourne View Concordat are being achieved.  It concludes that the government failed to achieve its central target of moving people with a learning disability and challenging behaviour out of Assessment and Treatment Units. 

The National Audit Office concludes that this failure was partly due to there being no mechanisms for systematically pooling resources to build sufficient capacity in the community. It states that, so far, there has been no financial incentive for local commissioners to bring people home.

Among its key recommendations, the National Audit Office states every person in a unit must have a discharge plan, and that local areas should work with NHS England and pool budgets to make joint decisions on care. This would incentivise the joining up of health and social care budgets.

The National Audit Office report follows the “The Transforming Care for People with Learning Disabilities – Next Steps” report which was published on 29 January 2015.  In the report, NHS England and partners outline the latest plan to substantially reduce the number of people with a learning disability and challenging behaviour placed in hospital, reduce the length of time those admitted spend there, and enhance the quality of both hospital and community settings.


Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive at Mencap, and Viv Cooper, Chief Executive at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:


“The National Audit Office report confirms what many of us have known for some time: that the government, NHS England and local authorities have failed to support people with a learning disability who display challenging behaviour to move out of inappropriate settings like Winterbourne View and back to their communities. The NAO’s report highlights that, despite significant public funds and resources, there has been an abject failure to deliver the change needed. Thousands of people with learning disabilities remain in units for an average stay of 5.4 years, often far from their loved ones and at risk of assault, over medication and being kept in isolation.

“The NAO make important recommendations about what must happen next to rescue this failing programme, ensuring health and social care services work together with pooled budgets to bring people back to their local areas with the right support.

“Following the NAO’s report, NHS England and its partners must learn from their failings and reassure people with a learning disability and their families that they will put in place a robust implementation plan to meet the challenge and deadlines set down by the NAO.

“The recently published report by NHS England and its partners is not fit for purpose. It failed to set out a timetabled nationwide closure programme of in-patient settings, and did not deliver any new money for investment in, and development of, local services. People with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges must be moved out of inappropriate places and returned to their communities, where they must receive the right support, as a matter of urgency. Progress must be measured not by words and process but by the impact on people’s lives.”

On January 29 2015, the “Learning Disability Census 2014’ also came out which was commissioned in the wake of physical and psychological abuse suffered by people with a learning disability at Winterbourne View Hospital exposed by a Panorama investigation broadcast in 2011. The Learning Disability Census 2014 reveals:

  • There were 3,230 people receiving inpatient care, which is almost no change since last year (3,250).
  • Average length of stay in an institution was 5.4 years.
    • 2205 people had been in an institution for a year or more, and 540 for more than 10 years.
  • 1,055 did not need inpatient care according to their care plan.
  • 2,345 people (73%) had received antipsychotic medication either regularly or as needed in the 28 days prior to the census collection. Use of antipsychotic medication has increased between 2013 and 2014.
  • 1,780 people (55%) had one or more incidents (self-harm, accidents, physical assault, restraint or seclusion) in the three months prior to census day.

Further to this, in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, families of the victims abused at Winterbourne View assessment and treatment unit, families of people stuck in similar places, and leading charities expressed their concern at a lack of clear plan with achievable deadlines.  


The letter was instigated by Emma Garrod, the sister of Ben, who was abused at Winterbourne View.  Emma said:


“Winterbourne View is a name with a legacy. Now synonymous with an abuse scandal exposed by an undercover journalist, it is a name that once meant only one thing to Ben: ‘home’.

“It started with a carpet burn, a small mark, enough to raise my suspicions, and it ended with a persuasion - maybe there was some other explanation for the multitude of injuries appearing on my brother’s body. I thought I would never forgive myself for that lack of trust in the instincts that screamed at me throughout Ben’s time at Winterbourne View. For months after, the harrowing Panorama documentary sliced through the emotions of the whole family. My every thought turned to the possibility that I could have done something, that it might as well have been me on the end of that slap.

“Today that guilt has turned to a deep determination - a determination to be one of the generations that sees real change, the generation that gives a voice to all people with learning disabilities, the generation that sees care in the care system - without exception.”


To download the full press release click here.


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