Care Minister extends mandatory learning disability and autism training consultation

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Up to 2.8 million health and social care staff, from consultants to porters, who regularly have contact with patients or service users could be legally required to undertake special learning disability or autism training, under new Government proposals, welcomed by campaigners.

The Government’s consultation, which opened on February 13, has received over 1,500 responses, including from healthcare professionals, charities, councils and universities. Nearly half were received in the first week but due to continued high interest the consultation will now stay open for another two weeks until Friday 26 April to give even more people time to share their feedback on the proposals.

The Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage (pictured) commented on the extension: “It is clear we need to do better for autistic people and those with learning disabilities. Our plans to introduce mandatory training for all relevant health and care staff will help to ensure they receive the safe, compassionate and informed care that they are entitled to and ensure our amazing workforce are confident to do their absolute best.

“This training could save lives so it’s absolutely essential that we get it right. We have had a fantastic response so far to our consultation but I want to leave no stone unturned and so I’ve asked to extend it to allow more time for people to have their say. If this affects you, please don’t delay – I want to hear from as many people as possible.”

The plans will help address the stark difference in life expectancy between those with a learning disability and those without. Currently, the life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 18 years lower than those without, with a 14-year gap for men. Autistic people also face documented barriers to accessing healthcare.

All relevant staff, from receptionists to doctors or care workers could receive a level of training to provide:

  • An understanding of learning disability and autism and the impact they have on someone’s life, including challenging unconscious attitudes which can lead to a failure to spot key symptoms, and ensuring individuals, their carers or families are listened to.
  • Knowledge of the fundamental rights of people with a learning disability or autistic people, and how these can be translated into action, for example the need to provide information in an accessible format and make sure people’s views and concerns are heard.
  • Advice on how to make practical reasonable adjustments to improve how people with a learning disability and autistic people, of all ages, are supported.
  • The proposals would see autistic people and those with a learning disability involved in the training, to help challenge attitudes and unconscious bias. Clinicians often only see autistic people or people with a learning disability when they are unwell or anxious due to their environment and training can provide a safe and relaxed space for professionals to get to know someone and understand how they can make reasonable adjustments to their care.

The Government is seeking the views of health and social care staff, employers, charities and people with a learning disability or on the autism spectrum, as well as their families and carers.

The Government is exploring routes to make the training a legal requirement, and expect that it would become part of health and care workers’ education and training, either before qualification, or in the role if already qualified.

Click here to download the consultation.

Picture (c) Matt Alexander / PA Wire.