Lord Victor Adebowale CBE is Chief Executive of Turning Point, a leading social enterprise providing health and social care services for people with complex needs in 200 locations across England.
Care Talk caught up with Lord Adebowale on the biggest challenges facing the Learning Disability sector in 2016.
Although often known for our substance misuse and mental health provision, Turning Point has been providing flexible, specialist support for people with a learning disability for more than twenty five years.
Currently we work with over 621 individuals with a learning disability and complex needs, ranging from physical disability, complex multiple health issues, and people on the autistic spectrum. Our teams do fantastic work, from supporting people to live in the community for the first time, to empowering people to gain employment.
Unfortunately learning disability is an area that tends to not get attention unless, sadly, the system reaches a crisis point. This takes away from the many successes in the sector and the inspiring work that goes on across the country to help people live independently.
I’m pleased to say that over the last decade we have seen a steady growth in community based-support, however a slew of bad practice and shocking inequality has focused national attention on what isn’t working, rather than what is.
One of the biggest challenges for the learning disability sector is that too many people are still being admitted to assessment and treatment units and too few are being discharged into appropriate, high quality community alternatives. Despite the rhetoric being very clear, progress has been slow. Too many people remain in campus provision and financial pressures on the sector could inhibit the required pace needed to end this trend.
The living wage, apprenticeship levy and reducing local authority budgets also pose significant challenges to the delivery of learning disability services this year and going forward.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. The sector is full of vibrant services, passionate people and innovative organisations doing great things. What we need now is for the government to enable change and hold commissioners who are responsible for driving forward the Transforming Care agenda to account. Progress since Winterbourne View has been too slow and Transforming Care and Building the right support have the potential to drive system-wide change and enable more people to live in the community with the right support, close to home, and thus reducing the reliance on inpatient care.
People with learning disabilities and their families deserve to have a consistent system, one they can trust in and rely on. Turning Point’s vision, like many of you reading this, is that people with learning disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else. For example, people with learning disabilities should have a choice about where they live and with whom they live; they should be able to use the services they need in their community; have greater access to employment opportunities; equal access to healthcare; and be able to live fulfilling lives.
Healthcare and improving outcomes for people with a learning disability is a significant challenge and an area Turning Point are leading on, with our recent publication of the Learning Disability Health Toolkit* – a free resource that supports staff to recognise issues and support early intervention. The aim is to help staff to reduce the shocking disparity in mortality rates faced by those with learning disability, versus those without.
We all have a role to play in improving people’s experiences of care – commissioners, providers, regulators, councilors and advocates. That’s why people with learning disabilities and their families need to be involved in the design and delivery of services. Which is why ‘working together’ is the theme chosen by people we support for this year’s LD and Autism Conference. Only by working will we ensure a fairer society for all.
*Turning Point Learning Disability Health Toolkit (2016), http://www.turning-point.co.uk/media/1100930/tp-health-toolkit-2016.pdf