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UK Government accused of failing people with learning disabilities and autism

The UK Government has been accused by Care England of betraying thousands of people with learning disabilities and autism by abandoning them in hospitals or inappropriate assessment centres for months at a time.

Latest NewsMore than 2,000 adults needing specialist accommodation are languishing long-term in hospitals or inappropriate assessment centres across the country, according to NHS figures last October. Inflexible bureaucracy and a flawed policy on care homes means some are stuck for mant months.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) imposed an arbitrary limit on care homes that stops them having more than six places for adults with learning disabilities or autism at one site.

Now Care England, which represents Britain’s independent social care services, is demanding action – from the Department of Health and Social Care and Health Secretary Matt Hancock – to solve the crisis.

Chief Executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green OBE said: “How can it be right that 2,000 of the most vulnerable people in our society are being left to rot in totally unsuitable institutions, simply because of petty, inflexible red tape.

“Care homes are ready and willing to provide specialised and suitable accommodation but are prevented from doing so by this crazy ‘six only’ rule. It’s nothing short of betrayal.

“Thousands of adults with autism or learning disabilities are in unsuitable hospitals or assessment centres – often many miles from their families – when they could be in specialist units close to their homes and loved ones.

“Mr Hancock needs to get a grip on his department and sort this out. He’s been in the job for 18 months, so he can no longer blame his predecessors. This is his problem.”

Axing the six-bed limit

Despite lots of effort, there remains a high number of people who are inappropriately admitted to Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) and remain trapped there long term.

The Transforming Care programme, which was started in 2012 by the Department of Health and Social Care, aimed to close 30% to 50% of inpatient beds for those with learning disabilities and/or autism by March 2019. This was unsuccessful.

Care England says this failure is largely down to the CQC limiting the number of rooms allowed in a learning disability home. This means thousands of individuals in need are being failed by the system and denied crucial services that would dramatically increase their quality of life.

Care England wants to see the CQC axe the six-bed size limit and focus only on the person.

Professor Martin Green OBE added: “The current interpretation to only look at bed numbers is short-sighted. This will lead to a much more suitable solution for those in our society who need help and offer them choice.”

These learning disability homes offer the chance of ordinary life for those with autism and other learning disabilities and a safe, social community environment in which they can live.

Specialist homes can provide tailored help to each individual and while providing the help they need; they also allow them to keep their independence. Something the unsuitable ATUs don’t and failure to change this will force more people to live in these restrictive environments.

By Emma Purcell

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