Bring people back to where they their own communities

Juie Stansfield chief executive of In Control responds to the shocking BBC Panorama programme - 'Undercover Care'.

Julie Stansfield

You would think that in this day and age, attitudes towards disabled people would not resemble those horrifying sights so many people witnessed on the Panorama programme this week.

In the past, people were segregated into asylums due to fear and people who were different were seen as threat. By the turn of the 20th century, they were segregated for reasons less about threat and fear but from the new wave of the eugenics movement. By 1948, as the new health service was born, people were seen as sick and needing treatment. Thus the old workhouses and asylums were transformed into hospitals.  A lot of these hospitals are still around today and still portray a facade of "making people better" rather than the underlying reason of "containment". Whilst safeguarding is often given as a good reason for segregating people, there must be enough evidence now to show this is simply the worst way of safeguarding people.  People who are segregated are de-humanised and as such we saw the worst possible result this week when many of us watched in horror at the sheer disrespect and abuse of people in Bristol. The difficult pill to swallow is segregation simply does not work by nature. A number of people phoned me and said they need better staff there don't they?  NO! These institutions need to be closed and the best staff will support people individually. Staff generally do not go into the care profession to make people's lives hell, they go in for the right reasons, but institutions of any kind are simply the ripest environment for abuse to happen. The fundamental nature of segregation leaves the environment rife for the kind of abuse we have witnessed over and over again in such institutions and whilst there is an initial outcry, it's often short lived and soon becomes yesterday chip paper by the public at large.

A survey in 2002, initiated for the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability, revealed that 61 percent of those questioned would feel 'comfortable' living next door to a person with a learning disability. Attitudes from younger people were even more positive about inclusion than older respondents i.e. 38 percent of people under 35 believed people with learning disabilities should be able to live in their own homes with support, only 19 percent of those 55 years and over felt the same. Eighty-eight percent of the survey favoured community based support to assist people. Regarding where people should live, 50 percent of those surveyed saw 'special housing with support' as the answer with no one thinking a hospital was appropriate.

The only way to stop such levels of abuse is to bring people back where they belong, back into society where the people who love and care for them can see them at any time and neighbours and communities can see what levels of care and support are being given to the person and furthermore start to see what people themselves can contribute back. The public is ready. People themselves have always been ready.  They just want an ordinary life that every other person considers a born right.

Last Updated : 02 June 2011. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.