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Advantages and Risks
This is not surprising given that we have spent the last thirty odd years working towards independent community living for people with learning disabilities after decades of poor institutional care and can now offer very ‘ordinary’ lives to these very extraordinary people.
However, in the brave new (or not so new) world of supported living , there are still huge pitfalls for providers in making sure the interests of service users are properly addressed. For one thing, the world out there is sadly peopled with some fairly unsavoury characters that can target and abuse the vulnerable. I recently posted about the challenges of online socialising – for every lowlife in a chat room there are others in the street, pub and supermarket who present a very real risk.
It’s easy to be seduced by the positive aspects of tenancies and support carers especially when you are a social worker with a budget deficit. Combined with the negative view of group living (thanks again, Winterbourne View) and the drive to have people closer to home, there are very compelling reasons to seek out supported living opportunities for clients with learning disabilities.
But this week, in evidence to the House of Lords around the impact of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, The National Care Homes Association reported that some providers of residential care had not been consulted in the assessment of clients for supported living placements, with some troubling consequences.
NCHA chair Nadra Ahmed cited the case of two young women with learning disabilities who were moved into supported living from a care home run by a learning disability provider. Despite stating their reservations to this move, the provider was overruled and the young women moved into independent accommodation. Shortly afterwards the young women were exposed to the unwanted attentions of a group of men they had met in a pub, where they had given out their address and number, unaware of the risks.
This determination to provide independence and freedom should never outweigh the need to carry out thorough risk assessments and the expertise of care home staff is vital in informing these. Supported living is the gold standard for many people with learning disabilities, but to presume residential care homes are a poor substitute is to deny the excellent and safe support these establishments offer to people who should, and must, be safeguarded.