One of the greatest worries for carers of adults with autism and learning disabilities is how, as those adults get older and develop conditions associated with ageing, their needs will be met by adult social care services.

This is why families with vulnerable members in Haringey are concerned about the apparent stalling of the project for a dedicated provision for adults with increasing cognitive and associated behavioural challenges at the former Osborne Grove nursing home in Tollington Way.

It is nearly five years since our successful campaign against the closure of Osborne Grove by Haringey Council prompted a pioneering initiative to include services for people with autism and associated conditions, including challenging behaviour, in a renovated building project co-designed with family carers.

The fact that some people with autism and linked conditions develop features of dementia prematurely, contributing to a substantial reduction in life expectancy in this population, has been increasingly recognised by academic authorities.

Ham & High: Mary Langan was part of a group who successfully campaigned against the closure of Osborne Grove nursing homeMary Langan was part of a group who successfully campaigned against the closure of Osborne Grove nursing home (Image: Luke Patrick Dixon Photography)

Some two thirds of adults with severe cognitive impairments live with parents or other family carers who are often themselves becoming older and more frail. Increasing distress among both vulnerable adults and ageing parents may result in deteriorating mental health and prompt challenging behaviour.

The Osborne Grove project will benefit from an innovative research programme entitled ‘Growing Older – Planning Ahead’ led by a team at Manchester Metropolitan and the Open University and funded by the National Institute of Health Research.

This programme aims to explore how support can be improved for older people with learning disabilities and behaviour that challenges others, family and professional carers, and end of life planning for carers. There is every possibility that Osborne Grove could lead best practice elsewhere.

Over the past six months, although plans for the Osborne Grove project have reached an advanced stage of development, progress appears to have reached a halt and worrying rumours of council plans to curtail expenditure on the project are circulating.

It is clear that our campaign to save Osborne Grove needs to keep up the pressure on the council to make sure that this badly needed provision is completed.

  • Mary Langan is chair of Haringey Severe and Complex Autism and Learning Disabilities Families Group (SCALD).