Warning of “another Winterbourne View”

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Two leading mental health charities have cautioned that the Winterbourne View care scandal could be repeated unless the Government acts to stop the practice of sending those with learning disabilities to large institutions which are often several hundred miles from their home.

A report by Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation coincides with the conclusion of a serious case review into events at Winterbourne View, a private hospital near Bristol, where 11 ex-staff members admitted offences against patients.

The charities have received a total of 260 reports from families concerning the abuse and neglect of people with a learning disability in institutional care, since the Winterbourne View scandal was uncovered by clandestine filming for the BBC Panorama programme in May 2011.

The report, Out of Sight, reveals a number of serious cases reported by families, including accusations of sexual abuse, physical assault, the use of excessive restraint and the overuse of medication.

It also highlights the problems families face when they try to get their relative with learning disabilities moved closer to home. The report claims that there are currently hundreds of people with a learning disability in assessment and treatment units like Winterbourne View, and other similar institutions. Many of these are located hundreds of miles from home, where people are at particular risk of neglect and abuse.

While many units were established to provide specialist short-stay treatment following a crisis, in reality, more than half of patients remain for two years or more, and more than 30 per cent stay for more than five years.

Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation are calling on the Government “to urgently address systemic failings in the care of people with a learning disability, by closing large institutions and developing appropriate local services.”

The Out of Sight report can be viewed at:
www.mencap.org.uk/outofsight

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