The Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, last week announced new proposals to strengthen the rights of people with a learning disability. The “No voice unheard, no right ignored” paper has been made in the wake of the need for government action to move people out of in-patient settings after the Winterbourne View scandal in 2011.

In a joint response to the “No voice unheard, no right ignored” paper Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation raised concerns that these changes could take years and offered little immediate help to families whose loved ones are still stuck in assessment and treatment units.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Viv Cooper, Chief Executive at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:

“We welcome the government’s recognition that a serious imbalance of power exists within the system, leading to the voices of individuals and their families often being ignored, with devastating consequences. We welcome the government’s commitment to address serious legal issues, such as whether autism and learning disability should constitute grounds for section, when neither are a mental illness. It is also welcome that the consultation seeks to clarify and strengthen the legal rights of people with a learning disability to challenge admissions and be supported to live independently in their local community.

“However, whilst this consultation is important, where changes in the law are needed to deliver new rights, this could take years and is not guaranteed.

“And we must remember that on their own, laws are only part of the solution, of making change happen. To ensure that the thousands of people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges who remain trapped in the system of out-dated institutional care like Winterbourne View can return to their communities we must see – alongside the green paper – the development of local support and services and delivery of the closure programme promised by Simon Stevens when he gave evidence to the Public Accounts Select Committee.”