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Tuesday 16 July 2019
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Panorama Investigates Whorlton Hall

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The abuse and ‘psychological torture’ exposed at Whorlton Hall in last night’s Panorama is shocking and deeply disturbing. It is a national scandal that modern society fails to better protect the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable people in society.

 Too many people with learning disabilities and/or autism still live in institutions, not homes, and are subject to shocking levels of restrictions and supported by staff who don’t receive the training they need. Urgent systems change is needed to prevent this ever happening again.

“This horror comes in the same week as a damning CQC report on segregation and an equally scathing report from the children’s commissioner on children wrongly placed in institutions where force is routinely used, and the LeDeR report confirming the extent to which people with learning disabilities and autism are fatally failed by the system”, commented Norman Lamb MP speaking in parliament earlier today.

We need a system that provides the right support, in the right place, and at the right time. We need experienced multiagency professionals working in communities, not institutions, with the skills to prevent, rather than respond to, people going into crisis.

This requires a much more integrated education, health and social care system capable of better meeting the needs of vulnerable people in society.

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield stated that “a national strategy is needed to address the values and culture of the wider system across the NHS, education and local government so that a failure to provide earlier help is unacceptable, and admission to hospital or a residential special school is no longer seen as almost inevitable for some children. There has been report after report and promise after promise to address this issue and yet the number of children in hospital remains stubbornly high”.

We must also ensure the recommendations from the Building the Right Support evaluation are implemented. Find out more about the evaluation here.

Isabelle Garnett mother of Matthew, who was in an inpatient unit for 18 months, spoke on BBC 5 live breakfast this morning saying, “Matthew is living proof that these institutions are not necessary... what really needs to happen is the right support in the community”.

Matthew lives in the community and benefits from Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). PBS involves working with people to uphold their rights and improve their quality of life.  Behaviour is communication and therefore all behaviours have a meaning. PBS aims to understand what behaviours that challenge mean so that the person’s needs can be met in better ways. The way the person is supported often has to change to achieve this, and this needs to be regularly reviewed by all the people involved.

We have a responsibility to work together as a sector to develop a more integrated system that better meet the needs of those with more complex needs and provides the right support, in the right place at the right time.


Ben Higgins, CEO of BILD 


23 May, 2019