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Winterbourne View: two years on

Our People - Maria Nicholas
5 February, 2015

On 29 January 2015, the Department of Health published a report on what progress has been made against tackling abuse of the vulnerable and elderly following the horrendous situation uncovered at Winterbourne View care home in 2012. The question is, has any real progress been made?

The Department of Health seems to think some improvements have been made. They say in their report that they now have a better idea of how many people are in inpatient settings, where they are and who is responsible for them (although it is alarming that they did not have this information before). They also say there is now a more rigorous registration, assessment and inspection approach in place for learning disability services.

However, they also acknowledge that not enough progress has been made. For example, there had been a commitment to transfer those people in inappropriate inpatient care to community-based settings by 1 June 2014. This has not happened.

This may be about slow procedures and delays within public bodies, but in my view it is also about the government setting itself unrealistic targets; unrealistic because the government is not committing the resources, both in terms of funding and staffing, to make these things happen. The Department of Health says that “the voluntary and community sector have an important role in challenging local decisions and advocating for people and their families, as well as people, their families and carers being supported to be involved at every level.” Whilst this may be true in principle, again this poses difficulties because the voluntary and community sector has also faced huge cuts that often makes the role it can play much more limited.

Winterbourne View made a lot of people sit up and realise that care for many of society’s most vulnerable needs to drastically improve, and there has been much talk about how to improve it. The Department of Health’s most recent report on this runs to 83 pages, for example. However, without the resources to see these objectives through, it is going to keep being difficult to make substantial progress.

Head of Court of Protection
Maria Nicholas is a Solicitor and Director at GN Law, and the Head of the Court of Protection and Community Care Departments. Maria advises on issues of mental capacity, best interests, deprivation of liberty and all aspects of community care law.

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