Thousands with learning disabilities have ‘human rights routinely ignored’

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Thousands of people with learning disabilities are “trapped” in institutional care and are having their “human rights routinely ignored”, MPs have heard.

Lib Dem former health minister Norman Lamb warned that more than 2,400 people in hospitals and care homes across the UK were being treated as “second class citizens”.

The claims come seven years after the abuse scandal at Winterbourne View care home and four years after Sir Stephen Bubb published a report into the scandal which recommended moving people to community care and introducing a charter of rights for those in care.

Sir Stephen – who was then the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations – was commissioned to review support for those with learning disabilities after BBC One’s Panorama showed patients at Winterbourne, near Bristol, being slapped and restrained under chairs, having their hair pulled and being held down as medication was forced into their mouths.

In November 2014, his report — Winterbourne View: Time For Change — said many people were being kept in hospitals far from home for far too long.

The Government promised action but Mr Lamb, who was the minister in charge at the time of the scandal, said that “not enough has changed since then.”

Mr Lamb, raising the issue in a Commons debate, said: “Many of the families affected are present for this debate today because they remain extremely concerned about their loved ones and about others who remain trapped in institutions.

“The conclusion that I reached at that time, which I still hold, is that individual human rights are routinely ignored and are breached in really serious ways.

“Someone when they are convicted of a criminal offence and sent to prison, generally apart from that cohort of people who receive indeterminate sentences, most people know their discharge, their release date.

“For people that go into institutions, they don’t know their release date, their families don’t know and for many of them, they stay there for much of their lives in a really shocking way and they are treated, bluntly, as second class citizens.”

Labour MP Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) told ministers it was a “disgrace” that MPs were still forced to raise this issue.

She said: “We are discussing this now seven years later in 2018 and there are still thousands of people in our country, thousands that are in institutional care and it’s just an absolute disgrace that we find ourselves discussing this in the way that we are today.”

Health Minister Caroline Dinenage, responding to the debate on behalf of the Government, said that people with learning disabilities “should have the opportunity to live at home”.

Ms Dinenage, addressing concerns over patient numbers, told MPs that NHS England had committed to reduce the number by “at least 35%” by next March and would seek to close around 900 learning disability beds.

She said: “Society has failed people with learning disabilities for too many years, our aim is to put things right.”

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