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Post Winterbourne View Transfer Plans A ‘Failure’ Says Minister

May 27, 2014

Fewer than one in 10 people with learning disabilities who were due to be moved out of hospitals in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal will have been transferred or have a date for doing so by a deadline set for the end of this week.

The transfer programme, branded an “abject failure” by the minister responsible, has been dealt a further blow after the man drafted in to breathe new life into it became caught up in an abuse inquiry.

Bill Mumford has offered to stand down because of the police investigation into abuse claims at the Womaston residential school for children with learning disabilities run by his charity, MacIntyre, in Powys. The charity is to close the school in July. Norman Lamb, care and support minister, said that “on balance” Mumford should continue in his national role.

The Winterbourne View scandal broke three years ago when BBC’s Panorama broadcast secret filming of people with learning disabilities being ridiculed and abused at a private hospital near Bristol. Eleven staff were subsequently convicted of offences, six receiving jail terms.

After the controversy, ministers ordered a review of the use of facilities similar to Winterbourne View, where fees were an average £3,500 a week. It was calculated that more than 3,000 people with learning disabilities were living in hospitals in England despite the closure of all NHS long-stay institutions and a longstanding presumption against hospital care.

A programme was put in place in December 2012 to provide the individuals with “personalised care and support in appropriate community settings” no later than 1 June 2014. But latest official figures show that of 2,615 counted in a survey at the end of March this year, just 182 will have moved by next weekend’s deadline and only 74 more have a date for transfer.

Lamb has made no attempt to hide his anger at the slow progress, acknowledging the programme has proved an abject failure and describing it in an interview with the Health Service Journal as “utterly hopeless” and his “most depressing and frustrating task”.

Mumford, chief executive of MacIntyre for 18 years and one of the most respected figures in the learning disability sector, was brought in this year on a four-day-a-week contract to try to revive the programme. He is warning privately that not only will the 1 June target be missed, but it will be impossible to get anywhere near it before next year’s general election.

The main problem is that in 1,702 of the outstanding cases identified in the March count, including 534 placements in secure hospitals, doctors say the individuals are not ready to move into the community because of illness or the challenging nature of their behaviour.

This in part reflects a lack of suitable community-based care and support schemes for people with profound disabilities. But critics say it reflects also a lack of creative thinking and enthusiasm for the programme on the part of health professionals, local care commissioners and, at least until recently, NHS England.

In a statement, Lamb said it was “absolutely unacceptable for people to be left in institutions if they are able, with support, to live in their own community”.

The minister added: wanted to see “real change of pace” in the programme over coming months. “A complete culture change is needed, so that we end the scandal of people staying inappropriately in institutional care.”

On Mumford, Lamb said: “My best understanding at this time is that MacIntyre has dealt with the [Womaston] situation swiftly and appropriately.” It was, on balance, “in the best interests of everyone involved in the programme for Bill to continue in his leadership role”.

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