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Hit providers where it hurts to free those trapped in institutions

The abuse at Whorlton Hall on this week’s Panorama is horrifying beyond belief.

We had hoped the Winterbourne investigation would be a watershed moment prompting the Transforming Care agenda, yet the system continues to subject many of the most vulnerable in our community to indefinite confinement in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs). The sad truth is that institutions breed institutional attitudes. For a small minority of staff in institutions with weak management, these attitudes become abusive behaviour.

Great care staff, and great care practices, do exist. In the wake of Panorama we will do well to remember that.

We’re often asked to support people with learning disabilities and whose behaviour can be challenging, leaving long stay hospitals such as Whorlton Hall. Our experience shows that personalised services are safer, more effective and cheaper than institutionalised care. Most importantly, risk of abuse is greatly reduced. We must listen to survivors who are thriving in their own homes with staff they choose.

Despite policies in place, many ATU residents do not get the Care and Treatment Reviews (CTRs) they are entitled to, which are vital for successful transition back into the community. So if the current approach isn’t working, we need radical change.

Make CTRs statutory, set a discharge date for every resident, and fine the commissioner if this date is missed.

Only by listening to survivors, and removing the profit motive for unscrupulous or weak providers, can we improve the quality of life of those the system is designed to support. If Winterbourne marked the start of Transforming Care, let’s make sure that Whorlton Hall marks the end.

Steve Scown, Chief Executive, Dimensions