In August, the National Autistic Society had a CQC report of the service, Mendip House published in the media that said the service was unsatisfactory. Some of our family members asked us what we were going to do about this.
The National Autistic Society has been a long term member of LDE (since when we were Housing Options, and then Housing & Support Alliance).This is new ground for us as we have always been mainly a membership organisation for professional organisations. In the past if one of our members failed people with learning disabilities, we would have contacted them privately and offered to help them to improve. We know that even good organisations make mistakes and we have always tried to take a helpful approach with our members and assume that they want to improve and support people with learning disabilities to lead good lives.We facilitate the Driving Up Quality Code to enable providers to be transparent about what they do well and need to work on and we encourage all of our members to sign up to this code and publish self-assessments where they involve the people they support, families, board members and staff. Some providers don’t do this self-assessment so we take them off the website. We have had to remove 2 providers (despite having done self-assessments) because of ongoing poor CQC inspection results and a clear inability to improve their services.Our members are now also people with learning disabilities and families and we have a different responsibility to those members. One of the main ways we agreed to work together was to put people with learning disabilities at the centre of everything we do and be challenging when people are treated badly or discriminated against. This may sometimes mean that we have to challenge our organisational members. We will always do this in the spirit of transparency and a genuine desire to talk openly about the problems our members experience and how we can help to solve some of those problems.
We wrote to the National Autistic Society to tell them that some of our members were worried about their services – you can read our letter here. We asked them to respond to our members. They have responded – you can read their response here.
The NAS will host an event in December 2016 to share what they have found about what went wrong and will invite some of our members, including self-advocates, families, providers and commissioners to come together and reflect on what went wrong, hear from other provider members, self-advocates, families and commissioners about their experience and talk about how we can make services better together. We will publish a report on what happens in that meeting. We know that it can be challenging to bring different groups of people together to debate very sensitive issues, but we think that the only way forward is to be honest and open with each other. It is sad and worrying to see what happens to people with learning disabilities when their support organisation fails them but we welcome and support the NAS who have given us this opportunity to attempt to genuinely understand what has gone wrong and what we need to do to make things right. We hope that this process can also help other organisations.