People with learning disabilities and their families are sadly all too used to dealing with substandard support, a lack of choice, and professionals who refuse to listen to us. Neglect, arrogance and indifference are common themes in the recent inquests into the preventable deaths of Connor Sparrowhawk, Oliver McGowan and Danny Tozer. And this is shameful.
However, in Danny Tozer’s case, the account of his care that has emerged at his inquest is all the more shocking because it took place at one of Royal Mencap’s supported living facilities. The biggest and most powerful UK charity for people with learning disabilities, not only failed to protect Danny, it failed to provide him with the support and the life he deserved. What is worse, is that Royal Mencap’s approach at the inquest has been to blame Danny’s bereaved parents and to focus on his behaviour rather than failings in his support and care.
This inquest has highlighted the conflict of interest that Royal Mencap has in being a major provider of services whilst at the same time claiming to be an organisation that campaigns and lobbies on behalf of people with learning disabilities and their families. It should choose which it wishes to be.
There have been many unexpected deaths, serious injuries, and allegations of abuse in recent years , across many different services. The figures suggest that there is a wider problem within the sector and that support providers need to urgently review their safeguards and their culture. We need a new openness and willingness to share and learn from uncomfortable truths. The aim of preventing further deaths and injury must overcome any reticence in sharing the whole truth.