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News in learning disabilities July to August 2014

This is BILD's News service for those in our community. See the latest news that affects people with learning disabilities, their families and those who work to support them.


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23 August 2014: Josh set to return to his family from care home 260 miles away 

Josh Wills, a 13 year old boy with autism is set to return home in a few months after being trapped in a care home 260 miles away. Josh Wills was sent to a centre in Birmingham after he started self-harming. Earlier this month, care minister Norman Lamb called both sides to London to demand a resolution. Now Phill has been told Josh can move back to Cornwall, though it will take several months. Phill, 41, from Truro said: “It has been a long fight but we have so much to look forward to. I can’t wait to see him set foot on the beach for the first time in two years. That is where he is happiest, where he can run free."  More >

22 August 2014:Sir Robert Francis asks NHS workers to speak up on whistle-blowing
NHS frontline staff up and down the country are being asked to speak up about their experiences of whistle-blowing this week. Their views will form the heart of an independent review looking at how staff on the frontline can be supported to raise concerns and ensure safe care for patients. It is being led by Sir Robert Francis QC, the barrister who led the public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, following a request from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in June.  More >

21 August 2014: Parents' angry reaction to Richard Dawkins comments on Down Syndrome

Parents reacted  with shock and anger after Richard Dawkins became embroiled in another twitter row on Wednesday. Richard Hawkins, renowned for his controversial opinions, told a Twitter user to "'abort it and try again"  when she said she would be faced with “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant and learned that the baby would be born with the disorder. Hayley Goleniowska, mother of Natty who is currently starring in Sainsbury's back to school campaign, responded that Dawkins' comments "would be eye-rollingly laughable if they weren't so hurtful and damaging."  More >

Walsall Manor

19 August 2014: Inquiry launched into 'inhumane' treatment of patient at Walsall Manor
The family of a woman with learning disabilities, Susan Hearsey, is threatening legal action against health chiefs over alleged poor care. During a seven-week stay it is claimed a nurse stuck her fingers up Susan's nose when she wouldn't take her medication, that staff lacked an understanding of her special needs and were continually distracted by their mobile phones.  More >

19 August 2014: Young people with disabilities campaign for the right to learn
Natspec, a student group, are calling for people with learning disabilities to have the same choices that most young people take for granted, such as choosing a further education college that best meets their learning and support needs. Members of the campaign, A Right not a Fight, protested outside the Houses of Parliament to highlight the inequalities which exist for students with learning disabilities in England.  More >

Autism tiny room
15 August 2014: Boys with autism, 'shut in tiny room for hours at a time' at Stoke-on-Trent school 

Two boys with autism, aged 12 and 14, have reported they were shut in a room for hours at a time at Abbey Hill School in Stoke-on-Trent. The parents of the children who are threatening the school with legal action said the boys were kept in a "cupboard-sized" "calm room". Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it had found no evidence that the door was closed for long periods. A spokesperson said the school sought parental consent before setting up the room and, to reassure parents, it was no longer being used.  More >

13 August 2014: Adults with learning disabilities more likely to live in areas of 'multiple deprivation' in Scotland

New figures show adults with learning disabilities are much more likely to live in areas of multiple deprivation in Scotland compared with the general population. The 2013 Learning Disability Statistics Scotland shows that adults with learning disabilities are significantly over represented in the most deprived areas of Scotland, and under represented in the least deprived, when compared with the distribution of the general Scottish population.  More >

Job Centre
13 August 2014: Employment for people with disabilities fall by nearly 30,000

Employment of people with disabilities has fallen by nearly 30,000 this year, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation study has found. The study found that a significant proportion of the four million people with disabilities who aren't working would like a job and were three times more likely than others to be 'wanting work'.  More >

12 August 2014: The Ideas Collective release a delivery plan for the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement Programme

The Ideas Collective have released a delivery plan for the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement Programme following their letter to Sir Stephen Bubb last week. The plan discusses the issue of the over use of assessment and treatment services and lack of suitable community support in current care services. The Ideas Collective are keen to emphasise that the delivery plan is 'part of' the solution and not 'the' solution.  More >

Care Uk

12 August 2014: Doncaster care workers continue to strike in fight for living wage
Workers at Care UK in Doncaster ended a two-week strike on Monday of this week and overwhelmingly voted for more strikes at a mass meeting. Care UK, whose former chairman Lord Nash is now a government minister, took over services for people with severe learning disabilities in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, this year, cutting wages of staff who had been on NHS terms by up to 35% while bringing in 100 new workers on a lower hourly rate.  More >

Independant living

8 August 2014: Independent Living Fund closure: 'Only a handful of councils have ring fence plans' 
Only a small proportion of local authorities in England have put plans in place to ring-fence the money they will receive when the government shuts down the Independent Living Fund (ILF) next June, according to a new survey by Disability Rights UK. Just 10 of 106 local authorities that responded to Freedom of Information Act requests said they planned to ring-fence the money for former ILF recipients.  More >

8 August 2014: Independent Living Fund closure: New court bid wins go-ahead
Three people have won permission for a new legal attempt to derail the government’s planned closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). ILF is a government-resourced trust which helps about 18,000 people with disabilities with the highest support needs to live independently, but the coalition plans to close it in June 2015 and pass the non-ring-fenced funding to local authorities. The case will now proceed to a full hearing, where the three claimants will ask the court once again to quash the decision to close the fund.  More >

Jessica Jane
6 August 2014: Swimmers excel at IPC European Championships
Britain's leading swimmers with learning disabilities have followed a hugely successful first-ever Commonwealth Games with three medals on the first day of the IPC European Swimming Championships in Eindhoven. Britons Jack Thomas and Aaron Moores won silver and bronze respectively as home favourite Marc Evers, 23, retained his 100m backstroke S14 title. Meanwhile Jessica-Jane Applegate (pictured, left), claimed 100m backstroke S14 bronze.  More >

5 August 2014: Call for rethink of ‘flawed’ NHS plan
The Ideas Network, a network of people and organisations in the field of people with learning disabilities and family carers, have compiled a letter to Sir Stephen Bubb following their meeting with the NHS steering group on 31 July. The letter said that the NHS group’s plan to develop a ‘closure’ programme for assessment and treatment units and related hospital settings placed insufficient focus on tackling the factors underpinning demand for beds, particularly poor support from community health and social care services.  Have a look at the letter here > 

Steven Neary
5 August 2014: Councils struggle with tenfold rise in deprivation of liberty assessments
Local authorities are struggling to cope with a tenfold increase in assessments of people when hospitals or care homes want to deprive them of their liberty. Cases like Steven Neary's (pictured above, right), who was unlawfully placed in an ATU for over a year, help to highlight the negative impact that assesments  can have. A court ruling in March has seen assessments soar from just over 10,000 last year, to a predicted 94,000 this year, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.  More >

Justice for LB
4 August 2014: Parents of Connor Sparrowhawk raise funds for legal representation

More than a year after teenager Connor Sparrowhawk died in a mental health unit, his parents almost have enough money for legal representation at his inquest. His mother Sara Ryan (pictured, left) and stepfather Richard Huggins (right), now run the Justice for LB campaign. The campaign is still working to raise £25,000 before his inquest – expected to take place later this year – and has raised more than £22,000 so far.  More >

1 August 2014: NHS steering group publish key objectives following first meeting
The NHS group which was 'tasked with cutting inappropriate learning disability hospital placements' has published it's core objectives following their first meeting last Monday in London. Stephen Bubb, head of NHS group, said: "We're trying to co-commission a national framework locally delivered that can help ensure better outcomes for people with learning disabilities. And that means moving from an institutional approach to community; from officials to users."  More > 

Claire Dyer
1 August 2014: Family loses fight to keep autistic daughter in Swansea

A Swansea family has lost its bid to prevent a health board moving their autistic daughter to a specialist unit in Brighton. Claire Dyer, 20, will have to move from the Swansea unit she has lived at since April 2012 after Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board's decision was upheld by a judge. The court hearing was told the health board had proposed the transfer because staff cannot cope with Miss Dyer's "extremely challenging" behaviour and said there was no other suitable alternative in Wales.  More >

Austerity Measures

31 July 2014: Austerity measures hit people with disabilities the most
Austerity measures introduced by the coalition government have disproportionately hit the disabled the most, a Guardian report has found. The report discovered that welfare reforms are more negative on families that have at least one person with a disability, particularly a child, and especially for low-income families.  More >

30 July 2014: Parliament approves Special Educational Needs and disability code of practice
The Houses of Parliament have approved the Special Educational Needs and disability code of practice, which will come into force on 1 September 2014. This is statutory guidance for organisations who work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The code explains the duties of schools to provide reasonable adjustments and auxiliary aids for disabled children and young people during their care.  Find out more >

Mark Harper

29 July 2014: New Minister for people with disabilities
The government has announced a new Minister of State for Disabled People - Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean, who will be responsible for overseeing the wide-ranging changes to disability benefits.  More >

29 July 2014: CQC consults on how to meet new 'fundamental standards' of care
The Care Quality Commission has drafted guidance on how the 46,000 health and adult social care providers and services that it regulates across England can meet the government's new regulations on care and what actions it will take when they fail. The new regulations (called "fundamental standards") are more focused and clear about the care that people should always expect to receive.  More >

Tom Hamer
28 July 2014: Commonwealth Games: Burnley swimmer takes silver

Burnley Bobcats swimmer Tom Hamer won silver in the Commonwealth Games Para-sport S14 200m freestyle in Glasgow on Saturday night - setting a new British record in the process. Hamer produced a superb swim to touch home behind Australia’s Daniel Fox, who had created a new world record in qualifying of one minute 57.16 seconds.  More >

The Undateables

25 July 2014: Campaign urges change in how learning disability is portrayed on TV and radio
An online petition has been launched calling on industry regulator Ofcom to change the way people with learning disabilities are represented on television and radio.  Sign the petition here >  

Launched earlier this month by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities as part of a larger campaign on hate crime, the petition aims to gather 5,000 signatures and persuade Ofcom to take their concerns “seriously”.  More >


25 July 2014: 'There are no limits to what Natty can achieve'
We told you a few weeks ago that Natty, daughter of Hayley Goleniowska, author of the 'Down Side up' blog, had been chosen to feature in a Sainsbury's back to school clothing campaign. Well, the posters have finally gone up. Breaking down the barriers and moving into society's mainstream. Well done Natty!

23 July 2014: Employment and Support Allowance needs fundamental redesign, say MPs
The flaws in the employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply "rebranding" the assessment by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published this week.  More >

Hate crime

22 July 2014: Disability hate crime needs tackling
Recent statistics released by the Crown Office show that reported incidents of disability hate crime in Scotland are, shockingly, on the rise. There were 154 charges in 2013-14 directly relating to disability prejudice. It is, however, widely accepted that disability- related hate crime is significantly under-reported, and the actual figures are much higher.  More >

Independent living

21 July 2014: Independent living for people is diminishing, warns report 
Independent living for people with learning disabilities is in reverse, six years on from a government strategy to deliver improved choice and opportunity, a Disability Rights UK report has concluded. Across social care, income, work opportunities and access to services, there has been “no evidence of significant progress” in disabled people’s experiences since the independent living strategy was published by the last Labour government in 2008.  Find out more >

Jane Cummings

18 July 2014: NHS England say people with learning disabilities will not be left out of group to shape future of care
NHS England has sought to address the anger that people with learning disabilities and their families' have expressed over their lack of involvement in the creation of a steering group to help cut inappropriate hospital placements in the wake of Winterbourne View.

Chief nursing officer Jane Cummings pledged that service users and families would be fully involved in the group and that its membership and terms of reference were yet to be decided, in response to concerns that plans had been drawn up by sector leaders behind closed doors. Cummings, who leads for NHS England on the Winterbourne programme, stressed that matters were at an “early stage”, and that no plan had been agreed to transform services.   More >

18 July 2014: BBC hopes plans will make it ‘top employer' for disabled people’

Performers and presenters have welcomed plans by the BBC to improve its representation of disabled people, both behind and in front of the camera.The broadcaster said its “ambitious” plans would “radically change representation on air”, and make the BBC a “top employer” for disabled people.  Find out more >

Solar Centre

17 July 2014: Seven year fight by relatives for justice
Investigations probing the abuse of patients with learning disabilities at a day centre failed to act quickly enough, an independent report has found. A report into the ill-treatment of victims at The Solar Centre in Doncaster has been published following a seven year fight by relatives. Complaints of abuse were first made in 2007, but it was not until last year that two members of staff at the unit, based at St Catherine’s Hospital in Balby, were jailed.

A summary report of a serious case review held into the abuse said: “The investigation reports into abuse at The Solar Centre took too long and the independent author found that agencies did not effectively engage the victims or their families.”

It has made nine recommendations including an apology to the victims’ families for the length of time the investigation took. The apology should also “address their feelings of not being heard, involved or in control of the various safeguarding investigations.”  More >

16 July 2014: Successful hospital trust 'special measures' regime to be extended to failing care homes
Failing care homes could be put into a similar failure regime as poorly performing hospitals, the health secretary announced. Jeremy Hunt has said most of the hospital trusts that were put into special measures a year ago have shown significant improvements and the initiative is to be rolled out to include care homes and home-care services. If these services fail to make improvements they could then face being shut down, Hunt said.

Chief inspector of hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: "We have seen significant improvements in almost all of the 11 trusts that were put into special measures, with exceptional progress in two trusts and very good progress in a further three.Special measures brings a new focus on quality improvement in trusts that have previously struggled to provide high quality care."  Find out more > 

16 July 2014: Labour demands a two year deadline for transfer of patients from ATUs
Labour wants the government to make a commitment to stop placing those with learning disabilities into assessment and treatments units (ATUs) for lengthy periods. It is also calling on ministers to ensure by mid-2016 that people with learning disabilities can stay closer to their families and friends. NHS figures show that nine out of 10 current ATU inpatients still don’t have a date for their discharge. The figures show that more than 2,600 people with learning disabilities − including almost 150 children − are still being kept in the units. Shadow care and older people minister Liz Kendall said: 

“Ministers promised to move people with learning disabilities out of assessment and treatment units and into the community. It’s a scandal that only a third of the people who were in ATUs last April have since been transferred out and that even today, more people are being sent into them than are being discharged. We need clear, personal and public commitments from ministers. It’s time that they made good on their promises.”  Find out more >

Stephen Bubb

14 July 2014: National group to drive improved healthcare support for people with learning disabilities
NHS England has asked Sir Stephen Bubb, the Chief Executive of charity leaders network ACEVO, to head a new group of experts and advisors to develop a national guide for how we provide health and care for those with learning disabilities. The group will also include healthcare, charity and voluntary sectors, as well as with people with learning disabilities and their families. It aims to design more innovative and integrated local commissioning of healthcare and housing to best support people with learning disabilities at home and in their communities, reducing reliance on hospital care.  More >  Read Stephen Bubb's account of the background to his appointment on his blog > 

Following the announcement of the new NHS England group and its plan, there has been a number of reactions from a range of people, including the families of people who have been cared for in ATUs at some point in their lives. Sara Ryan describes her reaction to Bubb's new post in her blog. 'My Daft Life':

"This ill (non?) informed man is apparently tasked (why? At what cost?) by the newly appointed head of NHS England to sort out the reduction of the numbers of people in ATUs and improve healthcare of learning disabled people. With no apparent understanding, knowledge or experience of learning disabled people. And no apparent engagement with any learning disabled people or family members."  Sara Ryan's blog post, 'Bill, Bubb and the Plan'>  Read Mark Neary's blog post, 'A hearty breakfast' >  Chris Hatton's blog post 'Deja vu all over again'> 

11 July 2014: Beds shortage for child mental health patients
NHS England says it does not know how many hospital beds are needed to deal with increasing demand for children's mental health services. In an official report, it said too many children were having to travel to access inpatient beds. NHS England promised to provide 50 new beds urgently.  More >

11 July 2014: Learning disability housing charity bond closes early after raising £11 million target
The first charity bond to be listed on the London Stock Exchange, which will fund accommodation for people with a learning disability, has closed its offer period more than two weeks early, because it was oversubscribed. The offer period was expected to close on July 23 but closed on July 9 due to strong demand, after raising its £11 million target.  More > 

9 July 2014: Consultation on revised Mental Health Act code of practice 
The Department of Health is seeking views from social workers on proposed revisions of the Mental Health Act code of practice. A draft code of practice put out to consultation this week marks the first revision of the code since 2008. Significant amendments to the code include: a new chapter on the interface between the Mental Capacity Act and Mental Health Act; a revised chapter on how to support children and young people and five new guiding principles for professionals implementing the code.

The consultation runs until 12 September.  More >

9 July 2014: NHS England offers "radical" new health and social care integration

The NHS is offering local councils across England a radical new option in which individuals could control their combined health and social care support, Simon Stevens CEO of NHS England (pictured), announced at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth this week. 

He set out plans for a new Integrated Personal Commissioning (IPC) programme, which  will for the first time blend comprehensive health and social care funding for individuals, and allow them to direct how it is used.  Find out more >

8 July 2014: Lamb: families' right to a second opinion "absolutely essential" 

In a debate in Parliament, care Minister Norman Lamb (pictured, left) suggested that doctors who recommend people with learning disabilities stay in inpatient care rather than being discharged may be making their decision based on the fact their employers receive money to keep them in care.

"Now that's not to say that in individual cases a clinician may be making their best judgment about the needs for an individual to stay in a particular setting. But surely the family needs to have access to a second opinion on that to be able to challenge that judgment.

Norman Lamb also said progress was being made in moving 2,615 people with learning disabilities out of institutional care, following a commitment after the Winterbourne View scandal three years ago to review their care. He said:"NHS England expects that clinical commissioning groups and its area teams will discharge or transfer 35%, or 892 of the 2,615 people, currently in inpatient settings within the next 12 months.

"There is no guarantee in my mind that it will happen so we have to hold the system to account."

Read the Hansard transcript of the debate >

Stephen Green

8 July 2014: The parish councillor with Down syndrome
Stephen Green, 49, is one of just a handful of parish councillors with a learning disability in the United Kingdom. Parish councillors help organise events, fundraise for local charities and fix problems such as the classic pothole in the road. Councillor Green says his greatest success has been to save the popular monthly Men's Breakfasts in his parish by volunteering to gain a food hygiene certificate and so allow the early morning club to continue.  Watch the video >

Hear my voice campaign

Hear my Voice - take action, join the campaign!
"Politics is all around you, you may not know it but without expressing your view, without putting a cross on a ballot paper... you are making a massive difference to the way you live your life", says Sara Pickard of Mencap Cymru in this video, "I became a community councillor to practice what I preach!".  Watch the video >  Find out more about Mencap's Hear my Voice campaign >

Children with special educational needs twice as likely to be bullied
Primary school pupils with special educational needs are twice as likely as other children to suffer from persistent bullying, according to new research published by the Institute of Education (IOE), University of London. The study, the largest of its kind to be carried out in England, analysed information on more than 19,000 children and adolescents born in the early 1990s and 2000s.  More > 

7 July 2014: Bill Mumford resigns after second safeguarding issue at MacIntyre school

Bill Mumford (pictured, left) has resigned with immediate effect as Programme Director of the Department of Health's Winterbourne View Joint Improvement programme after a second MacIntyre school was reported as being involved in a safeguarding issue involving the police. Mumford was on secondment from the charity, MacIntyre, where he was chief executive.  Read his personal statement >   Read MacIntyre's statement>

7 July 2014: Proposed new law to establish standards for health and social care providers 
The Government has announced legislation for fundamental standards of care that all health and social care providers will be required to meet and service users should expect to receive. Subject to parliamentary approval, they will become law in April 2015.

The new measures are being introduced as part of the government’s response to the Francis Inquiry’s recommendations and are intended to help improve the quality of care and transparency of providers by insuring that those responsible for poor care can be held to account.  Find out more in Community Care >

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