News story legal challenge

16th July 2020 • Emma Cooper

Autistic people and people with learning disabilities who could be better supported in their community will have their discharges from secure settings accelerated thanks to a £62 million Community Discharge Fund announced today.

Split over three years, the funding will give local authorities additional money to remove some of the obstacles to discharging inpatients into less restrictive settings or back into the community. The new funding will help to cover ‘double-running’ costs such as establishing community teams, funding accommodation and staff training.

The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has called for a renewed focus on this issue, after appointing Baroness Hollins to oversee the independent case reviews for people with a learning disability and or/autistic people who were identified as being in long term segregation. The reviews have made recommendations in each case to support moving people to less restrictive settings as quickly as possible.

Baroness Hollins has now appointed an independent Oversight Panel, which will examine findings from these reviews and develop recommendations to the Government. The Oversight Panel will make recommendations to transform the care and treatment of people with a learning disability and/or autism and prevent unnecessary admissions and the use of restrictive practices in future.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

‘Far too many people with learning disabilities and autistic people remain in hospital when they could receive better suited support in their communities, closer to their homes and loved ones.’

‘So, I am delighted this new funding will help local authorities to support discharges into the community more quickly for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.’

Minister for Care Helen Whately said:

‘People with a learning disability and autistic people should have the best possible care, and I am determined to put an end to the health inequalities they too often face.’

‘Few of us would choose to remain in a hospital bed when we could be receiving better care in our own community – this funding will speed up discharge from hospital wards making a real difference to people’s lives.’

‘I’d like to thank Baroness Hollins for her important work overseeing independent case reviews of those in long term segregation and look forward to seeing her recommendations.’

Local authorities and Transforming Care Partnerships will be able to use the funding on the most appropriate measures for their area.

This funding is on top of a total of £3.7 billion given to councils to support their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Baroness Hollins said:

‘Since November I have been reviewing all of those instances when people with learning disabilities and autistic people have been detained in long-term segregation. I have now appointed an Oversight Panel to assist me in understanding what I have found out, and in making urgent recommendations to the government.  Our aim is to prevent the use of seclusion and restraint in future.

‘Supporting people to live well in their own homes would be the best outcome. In some circumstances people’s mental health may require a short admission for specialist assessment and development of an evidence based treatment plan, but the majority can and should be able to receive expert mental health treatment and support in the community.’

The independent reviews have made recommendations to improve individual cases and outlined steps to move individuals to less restrictive settings and onto discharge, which will now be considered by the Oversight Panel.

The panel held its first meeting on 29 June and will continue to meet throughout the summer to develop its findings and recommendations. It is made up of clinical, psychological and commissioning experts as well as those with a lived experience, including family members and advocates.