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Transforming Care Agenda: Life after secure hospitals

Dimensions supports people with learning disabilities to live independent lives.

Our focus is on giving people choice and control over what they do. But for some of the people we support, this is the first time in their lives that they have been given this kind of freedom.

Dimensions has the expertise and experience to support even those people with the most complex behaviours to move into the community, improve their quality of life, achieve positive outcomes and reduce the cost of care to local authorities.

For decades, some people with learning disabilities have lived in secure hospital settings, kept away from their families and any kind of normal life.

Long stay hospitals have mostly closed, but Assessment and Treatment Units – designed for short, emergency stays only, still house nearly 3,000 people in this country. The focus is on protection, not long term behaviour change or having a good quality of life.

Our experience shows that living in a community setting is both preferable to, and much cheaper than, having people live in an Assessment and Treatment Unit, and that support needs can be reduced dramatically when the right support is given.

Living for years in such an environment has a significant impact on people’s lives. In general terms, the longer people spend living in a hospital setting, the more institutionalised they become and the worse their mental health is on leaving.

For those who do manage to get out of the unit, even being encouraged to enter the kitchen in their new home and to be involved with food preparation is often a huge, anxiety provoking change.

The cost of choice and control

Giving people with learning disabilities choice and control, a home in the community and an active life is not more expensive. In fact, supported living is less expensive than keeping people in hospitals.

There is consensus – amongst families and professionals alike – that people with learning disabilities should not be living in hospital settings.