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Connell C - LB Mar 2022

Government plans better care for people with learning disabilities and autism

The Department of Health and Social Care has published a plan to provide better care for people with a learning disability and people with autism.

Building the Right Support Action Plan, brings together commitments from across government and public services to ensure there is suitable community support available to reduce reliance on mental health inpatient care.

Measures include speeding up discharges for people with a learning disability and autistic people, supported by additional funding of more than £90 million in 2022 to 2023, including a £40 million investment from the NHS Long Term Plan to continue to improve crisis support, and £30 million of funding to continue putting key workers in place for children and young people with the most complex needs. In addition, there will be a £21 million Community Discharge Grant to local authorities, which will help people with a learning disability and autistic people to be discharged.

Another measure will be limiting the scope under which people with a learning disability and autistic people can be detained by reforming the Mental Health Act to improve how people are treated in law, and building on specialist training for health and care staff to ensure they have the skills to provide better care.

The DHSC stated that the measures aims to ensure people are treated with dignity and respect, experience personalised care and treatment, and can live an ordinary, independent life in their own home as part of the community.

Minister for care and mental health Gillian Keegan said: “For too long, autistic people and people with a learning disability have remained as inpatients in mental health units – not necessarily because it was the best place, but because of failings in the system and a lack of community facilities to support them. I am committed to driving further, faster progress to ensure people with a learning disability and autistic people, of all ages, receive high-quality health and social care support in their communities when they need it.”

The plan includes the proposal in the draft Mental Health Bill that neither a learning disability or autism can be considered mental health disorders requiring compulsory treatment.

Where people would benefit from inpatient care, the plan seeks to improve the quality of care in mental health hospitals. This includes taking steps to ensure care review recommendations are followed, reducing restrictive practices, and providing targeted support for people in long-term segregation to move into the community or a less restrictive setting. This work will be supported by increasing the availability and choice of specialist and supported housing options.

The Health and Care Act 2022 introduced a new requirement for registered providers to ensure their staff receive specific training on learning disability and autism, which is appropriate to their role.

There are also proposed new duties on commissioners to ensure there are the right community-based services in their area and there is better monitoring of risk of crisis at a local level.

The government also pledged a further £2.5 million to support the delivery of the Long Term Plan commitment to improve autism diagnosis pathways for children and young people.

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