Stop funding and reverse the expansion of archaic institutions
This week, Channel 4 Dispatches investigated the treatment of people living with learning disabilities and mental health problems in state institutions. It was a difficult but necessary watch; stories like the ones highlighted in the show are all too common and often go unheard. I was shocked from what I saw but more shocked that I was not surprised.
The show revealed major failures in care and in the monitoring of the health of people living with learning disabilities – documenting the deaths of young people who died from preventable conditions. Too many opportunities to spot symptoms and prevent serious health problems early were missed.
But the show raised a broader issue - why are people being kept in these institutions in the first place? We need better funded community based support and greater access to it. Institutions are relics of the past and they belong in the past. Any care setting in which it becomes common place for people to be held in face-down or 'prone restraint' has no place in our modern society.
Former health minister Norman Lamb MP describes the situation as a real scandal in which people living with learning disabilities being treated like second class citizens. This programme raised serious questions for us all. Are we bystanders and complicit when we know that people, human beings and their families are fighting such huge injustice? Where is the much-needed early intervention and investment for the most vulnerable in our society?
A petition has been launched by the Challenging Behaviour Foundation which I will be signing to tell NHS England that enough is enough; we need to stop keeping people with learning disabilities unnecessarily under lock and key. Please support this petition.