What price freedom? FitzRoy’s response to Dispatches Channel 4 Under Lock and Key

2nd March 2017

“Never stop challenging a world where it is acceptable to lock people with disabilities away in large institutions.” With the words of John Williams, a FitzRoy founder who died recently, ringing in my ears, I was sickened to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Under Lock and Key.

We have been witness to exposés like this before. The tragedies hidden behind the walls at Winterbourne View shocked our sector, and led to a commitment to close places where abuse and isolation are rife. Yet in 2017 once again we watch as a reporter lifts the lid on the devastating consequences institutionalised care is still having for people with learning disabilities and their families.

Why are we still seeing such horrors? Chronic underfunding is a huge part of the problem. Draconian cuts to local authority budgets have led to a rise in cheaper hospital care provision for people who are not ill. Let’s be crystal clear about this, having a learning disability is not an illness. When someone’s primary need is for social, emotional, and practical support, the NHS, and private hospitals, should not be the place people turn. It is always unacceptable that hospital style care is used for someone with a learning disability, unless they have an illness.

John Williams was told he was mad when he first laid out his vision of ‘homes with a small h’, yet his vision changed the landscape of social care. It lives on in FitzRoy, and many organisations that today, and every day, provide vital opportunities for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Witnessing lives being transformed by personalised care is in everyone’s interests, and everyone deserves the opportunities to live a fulfilled life, enjoy their communities, learn, grow, make friends, and feel valued.

We welcome the Transforming Care agenda, it is a potential way forward, but we urgently need the political and financial will to make it a reality for all those who are still locked away in institutions with lives at risk. Let us take John’s vision and strength and fight now to slay the dragon of inappropriate hospital style care.

Anna Galliford, Chief Executive of FitzRoy

 

Additional Information

  • FitzRoy transforms the lives of people with learning disabilities, helping them live more independently at home and in the community. We listen to people, helping them make their own choices. We believe disabilities shouldn’t exclude or hold people back from doing the things they want to do.
  • FitzRoy runs 60 locations across England and provides flexible support to over 600 adults with the support of around 800 staff nationally.
  • FitzRoy, a national charity, was founded in 1962 by Elizabeth FitzRoy whose son, Michael, had Down’s syndrome. She pioneered a new vision, to support adults with learning disabilities to live more independently, rather than in the institutional care which was available at the time.
  • To find out more about fundraising for FitzRoy email fundraising@fitzroy.org.