15 Asks for the Executive - Focus on Resettlement of people with a learning disability

In 15 Asks for the Executive we focus on a range of issues the current Executive can either complete or significantly progress before the June 2016 Assembly elections.

In this series of articles we take each 'ask' and explore them in greater details.

This week we are focusing on number 14, resettlement of people with a learning disability with an article from Jenny Ruddy, Campaigns Officer with Mencap in Northern Ireland.

Jenny Ruddy, Campaigns Officer, Mencap in Northern Ireland

Ensure no-one has a hospital as their home address by delivering on the  NI Executive’s promise to resettle all people with a learning disability from long stay hospital.  

Mencap supports and represent the interests and views of people with a learning disability, their families and carers across Northern Ireland. Mencap fights to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities, supporting people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities - for example household tasks, socialising or managing money - which affects someone for their whole life. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with other people. The level of support someone needs depends on individual factors, including the severity of their learning disability.

Mencap believes that people with a learning disability should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everyone else to decide where they live and with whom they live. People with a learning disability should not continue to have a hospital as their home address. The Northern Ireland government, as part of the UK, is signed up to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD) and in particular article 19 and the right to live independently and be included in the community.

Government policy since 1995 has been to resettle people with a learning disability from long stay hospitals into the community, but targets and deadlines for achieving this have been missed, ignored and repeatedly reset.

The Bamford Action Plan, DHSSPS stated that “all existing patients with a learning disability from Muckamore will be resettled by March 2015”.[1] This target will also not be met which means that today there are still people with a learning disability who continue to have a hospital address as their home.  The Department said in 2012 that around 200 people with a learning disability who do not require hospital treatment and who could be resettled into the community[2].

In the 2015-16 Draft Budget for the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, stated that learning disability services and resettlement  were one of  the key areas of ‘new service development’ that would have no financial investment in 2015-16. We believe that this fails to take account of the critical need for investment in learning disability community services if the NI Executive are to complete resettlement for everyone.  In our response to the draft budget, Mencap urged the Minister and his department to ensure that implementation of the Bamford Review, including the need to develop and modernise learning disability services for children and adults with a learning disability, is protected in the department’s spending plans, particularly those connected to resettlement, day opportunities and short breaks.

Mencap believes that the Minister and department must ensure that people with a learning disability are not asked to pay the price of continued exclusion and disadvantage because this target was not achieved within the timeframe set. We believe that it would be unfair if people with a learning disability were penalised because of the lack of community infrastructure and the failure of others to put in place the right support arrangements and funding to meet their distinct, individual needs before March 2015. We believe that funding should be available to ensure that resettlement is completed for all individuals who remain in a hospital.

We believe, too, that much more work needs to be done to address the gaps in health attainment; to deliver adequate levels of support to individuals when there is a tightening of the eligibility of criteria around access to services and an over reliance on families to provide 24/7 care and support; and to provide alternative housing and support to people with a learning disability who continue to live in the family home well into adulthood; to modernise and develop learning disability services, including day opportunities and short breaks; and to introduce capacity legislation which will ensure people get support to make decisions and put arrangements in place where individuals are deemed to lack capacity to make a particular decision.

Mencap urges the Minister and department to include implementation of the Bamford Review recommendations, as a priority and protected from funding cuts.


[1] http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/2012-2015-bamford-action-plan.pdf action point 13.

[2] http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/2012-2015-bamford-action-plan.pdf

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