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No voice unheard, no right ignored
The Rt. Hon. Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support, has set out a consultation paper on the way forward for services for people with learning disability and with autism.
He assures us that the Department of Health will work with the local government sector to fully assess the costs of any new burdens resulting from the proposals as they develop. The consultation also undertakes to ensure that any additional costs that may arise are fully funded. The consultation will run for 12 weeks from 6 March - 29 May 2015. There are fairly detailed points on which the consultation asks for comments. However, a summary of the main issues to be looked at is as follows:
- People in charge, supported by family and friends, and personalised budgets.
- Inclusion and independent living in the community where possible, with free access to family should be a right for everyone.
- The right care in the right place. The least restrictive setting possible for support must be provided, including real options for treatment at home and in the community.
- Clear accountability and responsibility for each person's support is proposed by identifying a professional, usually, but not necessarily a social worker, who will have oversight of the effectiveness of that care and support.
A massive step forward
The proposed changes have been generally welcomed. In particular, the sea change of viewing learning disability and autism not as mental health issues would be seen as a massive step forward.
The consultation is broadly a laying out of the post-Winterbourne issues, and follows on the heels of last year's report by Sir Stephen Bubb, which was a response to the very slow progress being made on reforming these services.
Government dependent, but be optimistic
The consultation includes assurances of health funding to ensure that identified improvements can be taken forward. This too is welcomed. The national move to localised and smaller services will no doubt be on a significant timescale, further lengthening the already delayed improvements and changes which were promised post-Winterbourne. There is also the immediate hurdle that an election is imminent, which means that the success of the consultation will depend on the commitment of any new government to support its outcomes.
However, it is best to be optimistic and to see this consultation as a logical and welcome step forward towards a radical improvement of services.