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Building the Right Support Action Plan: warm words but not enough drive

14 July 2022

Today, the government published its Action Plan for Building the Right Support to end the detention and inhumane treatment of people with a learning disability and autistic people who are held in mental health hospitals in England.

Publication of the Action Plan is long-awaited and, at first glance, it contains many commitments reflecting recommendations from the many reports that have been published over the past decade. 

While VoiceAbility welcomes the bringing together of public bodies’ commitments in one overarching document, the government must go further than collation. It must instead provide the political drive and urgency to ensure real and lasting change.

Reflecting on the Action Plan and giving his immediate reaction to its publication, Jonathan Senker, Chief Executive of VoiceAbility, said:

While many of the actions in the plan may be commendable, it lacks a sense of urgency and drive to end the unnecessary detention, and often inhumane treatment, of the 2000 people with a learning disability and autistic people.

Jonathan Senker, VoiceAbility CEO

Being mindful of the history of appalling care, and no doubt the failure to meet past commitments, the Action Plan asks the critical question at its very outset: what is different this time?’ The answer that there is a Delivery Board chaired by the Minister and that we have learnt a good deal over the past 7 years falls short of being fully convincing. The Action Plan offers little that is truly new in terms of the government really prioritising and delivering the changes needed.

It is possible to provide excellent community-based support and dramatically reduce reliance on mental health in-patient services. This is proven by the local areas that do it. We need more ambition to rapidly reduce the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people in psychiatric institutions in every part of the country and more political will and drive to ensure success in achieving this.”

Accountability and a sharpened sense of determination from government are vital to take the Action Plan from warm words to real change.

As we review the finer detail of the Action Plan in the coming days, that need for accountability and determination will be at the forefront of our analysis. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights called for a Number 10 unit (in the prime minister’s office) and Cabinet level lead to ensure change and many people called for the government to prioritise ending the ongoing and unnecessary detention of people. 

Ultimately, the government must act with haste and focus to make sure people can lead good lives and nobody is unnecessarily detained.