Change that leads to better lives

Seven days of Assessment and Treatment Unit (ATU) Action

Monday the 18th April sees the start of seven days of action to raise awareness of numbers of people with learning disabilities currently detained in ATUs, and what their lives are like.

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The campaigners' ‘wildest dream' is that by the end of seven days, the light at the end of the tunnel for the people whose stories you read, and the many thousand others, will be shining more brightly than it has done since their incarceration. I am sure that many of us hope their wildest dreams come true.

Listening to and watching the video clips on the website reminded me to go back to a report we had written to inform the service model based on what people with learning disabilities and families who have experience of ATUs told us about what worked, what didn’t and what needed to happen.

Most of the things that went wrong were really rooted in a failure to listen and communicate with people with learning disabilities and their families. People were not always given information in a way that they could understand, professionals used big words, and families were not listened to and were often perceived as part of the problem. But there were examples of things going well too – and this is what I want to focus on, because a lot of it really wasn’t very difficult. It was about listening to and understanding the individual and their family, and collaborative working. It was about sticking with the person – in other words valuing them. Skilled staff and good communication between staff groups too.

The wishes of people with learning disabilities were modest. They wanted to experience 'progress' in their lives where it is clear that they are being well supported to develop their own skills and the self-confidence to take more decisions for themselves. Something I think we could all relate to.

The most important message from people with learning disabilities and families was – please listen, and work with us!

Is this really too much to ask? Surely this shouldn’t be in the category of ‘wildest dreams’, but something all of us should expect as a human right?

This is an important week – I wish the campaigners every success.

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