FitzRoy’s response to the Winterbourne report – Time to change

28th November 2014

FitzRoy, a national charity that supports people with learning disabilities, hope that all political parties, and the health and social care sector, rise to the challenges set out in the excellent Winterbourne View report – Time for Change, by Sir Stephen Bubb.

The issues raised in the report aren’t new, John Williams, FitzRoy co-founder, was facing the same ones over 50 years ago when he pioneered this model of care.
“We wanted the word home – with a small ‘h’ to really matter. We wanted every disabled person to have the same right as others to go home to a family. All those in power must put greater emphasis on social care and the care of fellow man. The recommendations made in this report have been part and parcel of FitzRoy activities since we began.” John Williams

Progress since the Winterbourne scandal is frustratingly slow and cautious. Despite the outrage when the Winterbourne View abuses came out, individuals are still being removed from the families, communities and everyone who cares about them, sometimes with tragic outcomes.

FitzRoy’s research, Plan for Life, carried out with local authorities earlier this year, highlighted that many placements for people with learning disabilities are a short term fix often to a crisis situation, and people remain for many years in inappropriate care settings. We also know from our research that such care provision costs more in the long run as it leads to breakdowns and increased health issues.

Learning disability is not an illness; when people’s primary need is for social, emotional, and practical support, the NHS, and private hospitals, shouldn’t be the place people turn. Whilst the medical model of thinking persists there is always a risk of inappropriate service delivery. It is unacceptable that hospital style care is ever used for anyone with learning disability unless they have an illness.

Neil Taggart, FitzRoy’s Operations Director comments. “We need to ensure sufficient funding is made available to social care services to avoid corner-cutting provision. Such corner cutting runs the risk of leading to the same type of inappropriate hospital style care. We need to empower people with a learning disability and their families to plan their own care and support and make it possible for them to have choices close to where they want to be. The potential is there we just need the political and financial will to make it happen.”