Last week, the Government published its response to the consultation on the green paper No voice unheard, no right ignored – a consultation for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions.

The green paper, which was published earlier this year by the then-Care Minister Norman Lamb MP, set out to reduce the number of unnecessary admissions to long stay hospitals and Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, and to develop a strategy for moving the hundreds of people currently living in these institutions into more suitable and effective community provision, close to home and the people that they know.

Given the succession of targets and deadlines that have already been missed on this important issue during the four years since the Winterbourne View care home crisis, the green paper was welcomed as an opportunity to get the care of people with complex needs right once and for all.

Our reaction to the Government's response

It is therefore disappointing and concerning that the Government’s response – while meeting some of these expectations – provides little detail on firm timescales and delivery frameworks, and leaves the question of long-term funding for this vital area of support hanging until after the Comprehensive Spending Review is published next week.

Despite the lack of a clear delivery plan, however, we welcome a number of commitments made in the response.

The universal introduction of Care and Treatment Reviews (CTRs) as a way of reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and lengthy stays is very positive, but we would argue that the inclusion of a professional with experience in community-based provision in the assessment and review process is vital to prevent inappropriate admissions and retentions, and we are disappointed to see no mention of this in the Government’s response.

Similarly, we believe that allocating a named person to ensure the continuity of care and support for those most at risk of entering hospital is a positive move, but would argue that this should be extended beyond social workers to any professional nominated by the family.

The Government’s commitment to provide advocacy is very welcome and we would call for this to be backed by a legal right for people to challenge decisions.

Lack of community-based provision: Where will people move on to?

The fact that no reference is made to the creation of new community-based support and treatment services for people most at risk of going into hospital, and, alongside this, the need for more suitable housing options, is a matter of real concern. Having such provision available is vital if people are to have somewhere to move on to when they leave long stay hospitals and ATUs – and also as an alternative to people entering hospitals in the first place.

While such services dramatically improve the quality of people’s lives, creating specialist community services for people with complex needs can be costly in the shor -term, and requires substantial up-front investment for the transition period – an issue that we think must be addressed in the Comprehensive Spending Review next week.

There is much to be welcomed in the Government’s response, but all proposals must be backed by detailed plans and adequate funding. Without these, we risk missing this opportunity to finally put right the system of care offered to people with complex needs.

What you can do to help

Please urge your MP to seek a firm commitment to funding for this vital area – find out who your MP is and contact them using the They Work for You website.

Contact your MP now

You can also download our Transforming Care resources, which demonstrate what can be done and the huge benefits that the right support brings to people’s lives.

Diane Lightfoot, director of policy and communications.