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Lamb: Change law to stop another Winterbourne ‘horror’

Care minister Norman Lamb has proposed changing the law to give people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health conditions the legal right to be cared for at or close to home.

In a bid to turn over a new leaf after the Winterbourne View scandal, the proposed law would give people the right to have a say about where they are cared for. It would include those sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Lamb (pictured) said that the change in law would transfer “power to people and away from institutions”.

“We have to end the horror of families feeling that they aren't listened to, that their concerns are ignored. Just because an individual is sectioned under the Mental Health Act [it] shouldn't mean that the family is excluded,” he said.

Measures could include ensuring care operators have discharge plans for each and every patient in special units, and ring fencing budgets to pay for their care after they are discharged.

The changes could also see a ‘named professional’ who would be responsible for consulting the individual with care needs and their family. Local authorities would then be required to regularly check if the amount of support available to them is enough.

The announcement follows a damning report from the National Audit Office in February 2015. This found that government targets to remove patients from Winterbourne settings were unrealistic from the beginning.

The consultation will take place in England only. However any changes pertaining to the Mental Health Act will need to be ratified by Welsh assembly members too as the law applies both in England and Wales.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Viv Cooper, chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said in a joint statement: “We welcome the government's recognition that a serious imbalance of power exists within the system, leading to the voices of individuals and their families often being ignored, with devastating consequences.”

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Posted on: 06/03/2015

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