“It’s been a year since the government published their ‘action plan’ – ‘Building the Right Support’ – a national plan to deliver on its promise of a nearly decade ago to get people with a learning disability and autistic people out of inpatient mental health hospitals across England and build community support. The issues are well known and include:
- Lack of early intervention and a reliance on crisis management
- Perverse financial incentives
- Problems with the Mental Health Act
- Failure to value and engage with people with lived experience, their advocates and professionals with relevant knowledge and expertise
- Lack of investment in early help, prevention and community based housing and support
- An absence of leadership, accountability and joined up working
“A year after this long-awaited plan was published, the government continues to fail to address these issues and deliver key commitments. Most notably they are not on track to keep their promise to reduce the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people in mental health hospitals by 50% in March 2024, a commitment made in the NHS Long Term Plan, following repeated broken promises to transform care since the Winterbourne View scandal in 2011.
“In fact, the government is predicted to miss this target by another four years with some areas even further behind.
“There are still over 2,000 people with a learning disability and autistic people locked away in in-patient mental health hospitals, with the average length of stay being over five years. Breaches of human rights are taking place, with many people with a learning disability and autistic people being incarcerated for years on end. The human and financial cost is enormous and indefensible. Yet the Government, from its own commissioned research, does not know what the money allocated to this programme has been spent on – only that it has not delivered the intended transformation.
“A key commitment in their plan was reform of the Mental Health Act, to limit the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people who can be detained when they don’t have a mental health issue. However, the government has still not responded to the parliamentary committee who reviewed the draft Bill and their commitment to change the law is unclear.
“Numerous attempts have been made to alert Ministers to the issues and suggest solutions but there has been little acknowledgment of the need for urgent action. The Government must harness the knowledge and experience of people with lived experience, families and professionals working in this area who are co-producing a robust plan to deliver the long-promised change. Ministers also need to address the important recommendations made by the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill, who said that the Action Plan was inadequate in its plans for developing community support and needed to be significantly strengthened.
“Adequate investment to deliver community support and housing is desperately needed alongside investment in the social care workforce to ensure the right support is available. By providing and incentivising the right support, in the right place, at the right time as alternatives to detaining people in mental health hospitals, we can end this scandal so people are able to have the life they deserve.”
Samantha Clark, Chief Executive, Learning Disability England
Viv Cooper OBE, CEO, The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
Tim Nicholls, Head of Influencing & Research, National Autistic Society
Clive Parry, England Director, Association for Real Change
Alexis Quinn, Rightful Lives
Prof Ashok Roy, OBE, Co-Chair, Learning Disability Professional Senate
Dan Scorer, Head of Policy, Public Affairs, Advice & Casework, Mencap
Maris Stratulis, National Director, BASW England