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Progress too slow on resettlement of people with learning disability

On 10 January 2011 Law Centre (NI) got leave to bring judicial review proceedings in the High Court to challenge the delayed discharge of patients from Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim.

This is an important test case to establish the duties owed by the Department of Health and the Trust to resettle people with a learning disability in the community’, said Louise Arthurs, legal adviser at the Law Centre.

The Law Centre is acting on behalf of clients who have been deemed fit for discharge and resettlement in the community but who have been waiting, in one case for more than three years and in another for more than eight years, for a home in the community.

In 1995, the Department took a policy decision that all long stay patients in learning disability hospitals should be resettled in the community.  Targets set in 1997 to do this by 2002 were not met.  The 2008 Programme for Government target is that by 2013 no-one should remain unnecessarily in hospital.  According to figures published by the Public Accounts Committee in April 2010, there are over 250 long stay patients in learning disability hospitals.

Maureen Pigott, Director of Mencap Northern Ireland said: Mencap believes that no-one should have to live in a hospital.  We are pleased that there will now be an opportunity to clarify the duties of the Department and Health, Social Services and Public Safety and Social Care Trusts towards this vulnerable, largely invisible and sometimes forgotten population.  For too long, people with a learning disability have not been able to enjoy the same rights others take for granted - like living in an ordinary house in an ordinary street, with the support they need provided by local community based services. Local and international evidence confirms that the lives of people with a learning disability improve whenever they leave hospital care and move into the community.’




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