Out of sight campaign

In 2011, BBC Panorama exposed the shocking abuse of people with learning disabilities at the now closed Winterbourne View hospital near Bristol.

Since then Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation have been working with families to help ensure people with a learning disability are moved out of inpatient units and get the right care and support in their local communities, near family and friends.  

What was Winterbourne View?

Winterbourne View was a privately run specialist hospital for the assessment and treatment of people with learning disabilities, autism and/or challenging behaviour. 

Significant abuse and neglect of some of the people residing at Winterbourne View led to 11 members of staff being arrested and charged. There was a national outcry after the documentary was shown.

Read Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation’s Out of Sight report to find out about some of the people who have been stuck in similar places to Winterbourne View.

Winterbourne View building


Since Winterbourne View

After the exposure of Winterbourne View, the government committed to a programme of work aimed at supporting people to move out of units and back to their local communities. The government promised the children and adults who were then in inpatient units would be supported to move back to their local communities by 1st June 2014. 

This simply didn’t happen. The deadline passed with more people in inpatient units than before the promise was made. Read Winterbourne View: The Scandal Continues PDF to find out more about why we continue to fight for change. We have continued the fight alongside families of people in units, and those whose family members have been in before to ensure that no further promises are broken. 

In 2015, The government committed to a new timetable. They published a 3-year action plan called Building the Right Support. In it, they promised to close 35-50% of inpatient beds for people with learning disabilities and ensuring the right support and services are developed in local areas, by March 2019.  

This target was missed. They moved the target to March 2020 and said they would close 35% of inpatient beds by then. This target was missed too. 

What's next? Getting real change

The government has been clear that hospitals are not homes and that people should get the right support in their community but too many people remain in inpatient units where we know that they are at increased risk of abuse and neglect. 

The government has set themselves a new target to close 50% of inpatient beds by March 2024. This is in the NHS Long Term plan. 

However, they have still not published an Action plan to say how they will make sure this happens. We need to know what is going to be different this time. How will they make sure the right community support is developed, including the right housing, support from care staff and professionals in the community with the right skills and expertise - to stop people ending up in inpatient units inappropriately and getting stuck. 

There have been many reports that show the worrying lack of progress, and they all highlight the same issues. There can be no more excuses. This is a human rights  scandal and it must stop.

Recent reports showing the worrying lack of progress and demanding change, include: 

Mencap and Challenging Behaviour Foundation are working with families and other organisations to keep the pressure on the Government and NHS England to ensure real change happens for people with a learning disability and their families. 

Further resources

We have produced a series of Meeting the Challenge guides, in partnership with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, Respond and Change, for people with a learning disability and families to help them understand their rights, in the community and in inpatient units.

We worked with the National Autistic Society and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation on some guides about getting involved in the work of local Transforming Care Partnerships (TCPs) and influencing decisions. Find out more and download the guides here.

We have also worked with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) to develop a PDF resource for professionals about how to involve children and young people with severe or profound multiple learning disabilities about the support they receive. This is accompanied by guidance for commissioners and providers about how to support families to keep in touch with their child if they are sent out of area.

The CBF has also developed a resource on medication, as part of the NHS England-led STOMP programme: stopping the overmedication of people with a learning disability, autism or both, with psychotropic medicines. The resource is for family carers. 

Further reading

Making it Happen guide

Download our guide for campaigners about taking action to get people with a learning disability and/or with challenging behaviour out of inpatient units

Download resource Making it Happen
Making it Happen - easy read guide

Download our easy read  guide for campaigners about taking action to get people with a learning disability and/or with challenging behaviour out of inpatient units

Download resource Making it Happen - easy read guide

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