Word on the street: Legacy of the 'drastic cuts' in adult social care means many are stuck in 'treatment' units
PUBLISHED: 12:30 11 April 2019
Luke Patrick Dixon Photography
Adam is a local young man who has autism, learning disabilities and epilepsy.*
For the past five years he has been languishing in a specialist “assessment and treatment unit” outside London, taking anti-psychotic medication to contain his challenging behaviour. Though he has been assessed as suitable for a “positive behaviour support” programme back in his community he has been unable to take this up because there is a lack of appropriate accommodation to enable him to return to his home borough.
Adam’s story is sadly typical of several thousand cases around the country involved in the Transforming Care Programme set up in response to the scandal at Winterbourne View assessment unit in Bristol.
In 2011 a BBC documentary revealed systematic neglect and abuse of people with autism and learning disabilities and the unit was closed down. Eleven staff members were convicted on charges of assault, and six went to prison. In response to a series of official inquiries and reports, in 2012 the government pledged to transfer all residents of such facilities into appropriate provisions in the community.
Unfortunately, the hopes raised by the Transforming Care Programme were all too often dashed by the impact of the austerity budget cuts in local government funding introduced by the coalition government after 2010. Two years after the launch of the national programme, the figures showed an increase, rather than a reduction, in the number of people in institutional care. Because of its continuing failure to meet its own targets, the government has accepted that the national Transforming Care Programme must be extended beyond the current deadline of the end of March.
A recent report by the partnership of north London local authorities shows that progress has also been slow in our area. There are still 53 long-term in-patients with autism and learning disabilities who come from Haringey, Camden, Islington, Barnet and Enfield.
In the case of Haringey, there are 14 people in a similar position to Adam who are stuck in institutions outside the borough because of the lack of specialist accommodation close to home.
In Haringey, plans to provide positive behaviour support have to confront the legacy of the drastic cuts in adult social care and day centre closures imposed by the previous council leadership. People with autism and learning disabilities need dedicated housing and safe spaces in which to engage in day activities. The new council needs to listen to the voices of families who want to bring their sons and daughters back to the borough, but need accommodation and day opportunities for them. The council’s ambitious housing programme must include provision for its vulnerable residents.
The north London report includes a number of case studies revealing that, with a high level of professional input and resources, the lives of individuals and their families can indeed be transformed by providing appropriate support in the community.
* To protect confidentiality, “Adam” is a combination of three youngsters in north London.