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Channel 4 Documentary: Under Lock and Key (Wed 1st March, 10pm)

A preview ‘ad’ on Channel 4 last night alerted me to an upcoming documentary ‘Under Lock and Key’ to be screened on Wednesday (1st March) at 10pm, which might be more rewarding viewing than the news.

The program’s page on the Channel 4 website describes it thus: “How best can suitable care be provided for young people with severe learning disabilities?  Thousands of young people with severe learning disabilities and autism are still locked up in hospitals, despite government promises. How best can appropriate care be provided for people who need it?”

The preview in the Daily Telegraph online gives a fuller description: “Two years ago, the heartbreaking Dispatches documentary Kids in Crisis exposed the inadequacies of mental health care for children. This equally hard-hitting follow-up, also by Bafta-winning director Alison Millar, does a similar job for young adults. Thousands of teenagers with learning disabilities and autism are sectioned in secure units. Despite promises made by the government in its Transforming Care Policy five years ago after a number of scandals, the NHS continues to send vulnerable people to vast, impersonal institutions, instead of providing care packages tailored to their complex conditions. This troubling but important film tells the stories of patients in one of Britain’s biggest psychiatric hospitals, where they’ve been subject to restraint, seclusion and sedation. It also follows families and politicians (notably Helen Hayes of Labour and the Lib Dem’s Norman Lamb) fighting for individuals to be released. With mental health services facing rising demands while budgets are cut, Millar sensitively yet powerfully shows how youngsters are being failed by the system, asking how best to provide appropriate care and improve quality of life for those in desperate need”.

The documentary is effectively analysing the success of Transforming Care, the Department of Health’s  response to the Winterbourne View review.

In the ministerial foreword to Transforming Care, Norman Lamb wrote: “Winterbourne View also exposed some wider issues in the care system. There are far too many people with learning disabilities or autism staying too long in hospital or residential homes, and even though many are receiving good care in these settings, many should not be there and could lead happier lives elsewhere. This practice must end. We should no more tolerate people being placed in inappropriate care settings than we would people receiving the wrong cancer treatment. That is why I am asking councils and clinical commissioning groups to put this right as a matter of urgency. Equally, we should remember that not everything will be solved through action driven from the centre. Stories of poor care are a betrayal of the thousands of care workers doing extraordinary things to support and improve people’s lives. And while stronger regulation and inspection, quality information and clearer accountability are vital, so too is developing a supportive, open and positive culture in our care system. I want staff to feel able to speak out when they see poor care taking place as well as getting the training and support they need to deal with the complex and challenging dilemmas they often face. For me, this is the bigger leadership and cultural challenge that this scandal has exposed – and answering it will mean listening and involving people with learning disabilities and their families more than ever before. As much as Winterbourne View fills us all with sorrow and anger, it should also fire us up to pursue real change and improvement in the future. It is a national imperative that there is a fundamental culture change so that those with learning disabilities or autism have exactly the same rights as anyone else to the best possible care and support. This Review is a key part of making that happen.”

Apparently, Norman Lamb appears in the Under Lock and Key documentary. It will be interesting to hear his analysis of ‘progress to date’.

If you miss the programme tomorrow, I’m sure it will be available on catch-up. I will also attempt to monitor and report on reaction to the programme.

 

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