Calls to appoint a commissioner to look after the interests of people with learning disabilities have been growing louder since the shocking story of Ian Shaw became national news. Shaw, 34, was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year after spending nine years in secure hospitals where his condition wasn’t spotted. Now there is talk of installing a commissioner to “uphold the rights” of people with learning disabilities. But unless the government plans to give this job to a person who is actually learning disabled, then I believe this would be another dead end. Instead of being left out of the process, people with learning disabilities should be at the heart of the solution.
The calls are being led by Stephen Bubb, who believes a commissioner could be charged with monitoring, and holding to account, all services which look after people with learning disabilities. Bubb authored the 2014 NHS England report – Winterbourne View: Time for Change – which explored the shortcomings in care and support for people with learning disabilities in the UK. The report followed a string of scandals that emerged from Winterbourne View, a publicly-funded private hospital in Gloucestershire.
The scandal there was first exposed in 2011 by an undercover reporter who revealed the psychological and physical abuse people with learning disabilities were facing. The hospital was subsequently shut down. Despite the Care Quality Commission receiving a series of warnings about mistreatment at Winterbourne, the complaints received were never followed up.