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New learning disability plan for Northern Ireland
Friday 09 October 2009
Health minister prioritises moving people from long-stay hospitals
Northern Ireland health minister Michael McGimpsey has launched The Bamford Action Plan 2009-2011 – a mental health and learning disability action plan that promises new support for people with a learning disability.
The plan sets out key points of action for a range of government departments over the next two years. This follows last year's consultation on the executive's response to the Bamford Review of mental health and learning disability, which published ten reports between 2005 and 2007.
News of the action plan came as a report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office revealed that more than 250 patients with a learning disability are still in hospital, 14 years after the Department of Health said they should be moved into the community. In 1995, the government said that all long-stay patients at three hospitals should be rehoused by 2002. But the report has revealed that, as of March this year, 256 people with a learning disability were still in hospital.
Discussing the action plan, Michael McGimpsey said: "Learning disability and mental health services have been the 'Cinderella' services for too long and have suffered from years of under-investment... The additional £33 million I have secured has allowed me to make real progress in addressing the recommendations of the Bamford Review. As well as addressing the issue of resettlement, there will be a considerable increase in the numbers of community-based staff and in the number of respite places."
Key action points around learning disability include providing better services, supporting families and carers, and promoting positive health and wellbeing. Maureen Piggot, director of Mencap in Northern Ireland, said she was pleased with the focus of the plan. "We are relieved that, at long last, people with a learning disability and their families in Northern Ireland have clearer information on the actions that government departments are going to take to implement the recommendations of the Bamford Review... The setting of targets should make it easier to hold departments to account for the commitments they have made in the action plan.
"We believe, however, that inadequate levels of funding for learning disability will continue to mean that the action plan will not be able to deliver within its timeframe. We will monitor progress of the action plan, ensuring that the government's commitments are more than just words on a page."
Read the action plan
Find out more about Mencap's work in Northern Ireland