Today we await the serious case review (SCR) into the Winterbourne View. The hope among many in social care is that it will provide answers to why the horrendous abuse we saw on our screens last May took place and thereby help prevent it from happening again.
However, there is already a consensus across government, social care and the NHS about ending – or at least minimising – the abuse of people with learning disabilities and complex needs.
This would involve commissioning a spectrum of local support services, encompassing day support, housing and health, and ranging from early to crisis intervention. As a result,people would not have to be placed far from home in institutions such as Winterbourne where, it is argued, abuse is more likely to go undetected.
The problem, from the perspective of many in social care, is that there is a lack of political will to ensure that this service model is the norm across the country, with
This message is articulated loud and clear in a report, Out of sight, from Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, published to coincide with the SCR.
The charities say they have been received 260 reports of abuse or neglect of learning disabled people in institutional care in the 15 months since BBC Panorama screened its Winterbourne View programme.
Their report contains powerful stories from among these cases of how the unavailability or breakdown of local support services led people to be placed miles from home and the poor outcomes – or worse – they subsequently faced.
Their recommendations – the closure of large assessment and treatment units and directions for commissioners to develop sufficient community-based services – are familiar from previous such reports; but such a directive approach was rejected by government in the interim report of its Winterbourne View review.
While reports such as this should not be ignored, charities campaigning’ voice can fall on deaf ears if it doesn’t fit with government priorities. However, it may be harder for ministers to ignore similar recommendations from today’s serious case review (SCR), if that is what materialises.
The independent chair of the SCR, Margaret Flynn, has chaired many of the more significant reviews of recent years, such as that concerning the murder of Steven Hoskin. Her recommendations – to commissioners, providers, the Care Quality Commission and government – will carry serious weight.
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