So what is the future for people with a learning disability. Despite all the trips and failures on the way, I thought we'd come a long way from the old large institutions from before the days of Care in the Community. We're into the era of independent living and personalized budgets - aren't we? These days the aim is for people to live their own individual lives out in the community with whatever support is necessary to make this possible.
But then came the cuts. There aren't any big institutions to close down any more to make the big savings. So what is our Social Services Department doing. Well, it seems to be doing two things.
In the short term, it's not closing facilities (there aren't many of them left) but it is trying to cut the number of people it is obliged to support (by making people with 'moderate needs' no longer eligible) and by shaving chunks off everyone else's care and support packages (there's a target of 15% reductions to care packages which are being reviewed - it's only a target, not everyone will be cut - but it's out there in big red letters for social workers to aim for when they do individual reviews.)
And it's actually started planning for the long term. It's set up a unit specifically to look at what housing and support services it should be commissioning longer term - and it's coming up with a 'model.' And the 'model' has suspicious similarities to some of the old institutions. Something like an elderly persons sheltered housing scheme - individual flatlets in a block, with central support (remind you of anything?) Could be quite small - OK, maybe 100, but could be as small as 40 units! This would certainly keep costs down - but I seem to remember emptying a lot of things like this a few decades ago. But surely, this is just scaremongering - no one would actually propose something like this - would they? A next door authority has recently, and quietly, built a new unit just like this - our authority is just slower off the mark.
So what's wrong with this? I won't put up a reasoned arguement - just throw out a few phrases. Winterbourne View. Learning disability ghetto. Institutionalization.
It's not the workhouse, but it is on the same street.
It's not a big, isolated mental hospital, but the architecture has real similarities.
It's not a locked ward, but it's a long way from independent living in the community.
And it's coming soon to a place near you - if we don't get these plans out into the open and stop them.