A Response to the National Audit Office Report

This blog post was written by Gary Bourlet and was originally published on 03.02.15.


People First England responded to the HSCIC Learning Disability Census. Here is what we said: 

1. The Winterbourne programme has not worked and we are still being treated like third class citizens

The Winterbourne programme has been going for more than 3 years. It is high profile and there is a minister responsible for it but it hasn’t changed anything much. They have said the right things but whatever is happening they are not making a difference. None of this is new. People with learning disabilities continue to be treated like 3rd class citizens, which has been going on for decades.  Until society treats us the same, nothing will change.

We think it has been a waste of taxpayers money.  It is not money well spent. There has been too much bureaucracy, too many people in offices doing too much paperwork but not enough work on the ground. Commissioners have a lack of knowledge or regard for people with learning disabilities.

2. Lots of professionals have been paid to make things better but they haven’t done their jobs properly

They were supposed to be closing ATU’s but there are more people going in them.  There are only 20 people less than last year after all of this money is being spent. Why are they still using providers who have been issued with warnings that the care they are offering is not good enough?

There are a lot of people who have been in ATU’s for far too long have should be high priority to be moved out.  A lot of people are so far away from their families that they feel even more and it affects their families financially and mentally not being able to see their loved ones regularly. All these professionals have had a job to do and haven’t done it!

3. People with behavioural problems do well when they get the right kind of help

A lady has gone from having 6 behavioural  episodes in an ATU a week and since leaving the ATU she has only had 1 in a year.  All she needed was the right support, love and to be treated with respect and dignity.  When she was in the ATU she was left in a room to soil herself as she was told there was not enough staff to take her to the toilet.  Sometimes people’s behaviour is because they can’t communicate well or they don’t speak English.

ATU’s cost a lot of money. We want the money to be put into getting people into the community rather than ATU’s and when people do need special help, we need rehabilitation centres not ATU’s to help people recover rather than feel punished. A big problem is that they haven’t made enough adequate housing and the right support in the community. Why aren’t these commissioners using expert by experience to learn and to help them understand what needs to be done?

4. Hospitals and psychiatrists still don’t understand how to help people properly

Hospitals don’t understand that people can live in the community. The medical model of ATU’s says the person is the problem and they need to be fixed with medication.  The social model of getting support in the community is saying that society needs to change so that all disabled people can fit in equally. Psychiatrists are just giving more antipsychotic drugs instead of dealing with the real issues.

In the census, the hospitals said that 72% of people were a risk to themselves or others. Are people really that much of a risk? We know that they are just not getting the support that they need. There are private companies making decisions on whether somebody has mental health issues. How can this be right as they have financial gain?

5. We are happy about some things

We agree there should be stricter laws and rules for people who abuse patients.  Care homes that do not come up to scratch should be fined. It’s good they have put proper reviews in place and people have left due to these.  They have put some money into housing but not enough.

Gary Bourlet. People First England 30th January 2014