Guest blog by Ivan Olbrechts, Representative Body family and friends member
On the 9th February I attended the Government’s Health and Social Care Committee as a witness.
I was invited to give spoken evidence as part of the inquiry about the treatment of autistic people and individuals with learning disabilities.
I went as a representative of Learning Disability England and a family carer with lived experience.
What happened before the session
During the weeks before, I worked with the rest of the Representative Body and we consulted with members to make sure I knew about the issues that were important to members.
It was important to me that I represented the views of members and not just my own.
We put what we found into an Easy Read paper, which we sent to the Committee before the meeting.
The paper talks about members’ thoughts about why change has not happened since the abuses of Winterbourne View.
It also includes a summary of the views of members who are experts by experience and who attend Care and Treatment Reviews.
Leading up to the session I spoke with Julie from Rightful Lives, Viv from the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Dan from Mencap.
We were all going to be speaking as witnesses in the same session. So we worked together and compared notes so we were all clear about our respective contributions.
We also sent a further joint written submission to the Committee.
What happened on the day
On the day, Alexis Quinn was the first witness to answer the Committee’s questions.
It was good to see a person with direct lived experience appearing as the first witness.
Alexis gave a powerful and moving account of her personal experience of being detained in hospital for her autism.
The Committee asked wide-ranging questions.
They wanted to hear from us as witnesses about the impact of the pandemic on people with learning disabilities, autistic people and their families and about the experiences of people detained in inpatient wards.
The Committee also asked questions about the Mental Health Act legislation and about what needs to be done to make things better for people.
Many questions were in relation to Transforming Care. Jeremy Hunt MP is part of the Committee and he had implemented Transforming Care during his time as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
The session lasted for about two hours. As witnesses we talked about many issues that we felt had been talked about many times before, sadly without it leading to any real change.
However I do hope that now we have contributed our evidence, the Committee will hold further sessions that hold the Department of Health and Social Care and others to proper account.
This issue is too important. Change needs to happen. We need to get our voices heard and push for action together.
About the Health and Social Care Committee
The Health and Social Care Committee are a cross-party Committee of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to look at the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and related public bodies on behalf of the public.
The Committee Chair was chaired by the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP and committee members attending included Barbara Keeley MP, Rosie Cooper MP, Laura Trott MP and Dean Russell MP.