Reform Hopes With Bamford Review

Carers, support groups and individuals affected by mental health problems and learning disabilities are united in their hopes of a fresh approach to services in Northern Ireland. As the findings of the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability were finally presented to the Government, marking the conclusion of a four-year initiative, concerned parties waited in the Stormont Hotel for a response.

Perhaps the hopes – and fears – of some attendees were similar to those of one woman who admitted she was “looking forward to being proved wrong” by Health Minister Paul Goggins.

Anne Blake is chairwoman of the Down Lisburn Carer’s Forum, a body she says is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland. “If this review is implemented it will be brilliant. It will be a complete turn around in attitude from a Government who have looked at people with learning disabilities and treated them with contempt,” she said. “But I am looking forward to being proved wrong. I hope that the Assembly will get up and running and look after
people with learning disabilities because at the minute they don’t have choices.”

Professor Roy McClelland, who chaired the Bamford Review, said: “When you look at investment in mental health it has been chronically under-invested here. “The review, after discovering these deficits, set about trying to provide a new vision, and we have provided a detailed road map for the next 15 or more years of how we are going to make a difference.”

A number of speakers from the Equal Lives Group attended the event, where they were questioned by BBC broadcaster Noel Thompson on what they wanted to see
implemented as a result of the review.

The group was established by the review to advise on how to ensure that the voices of those people with a learning disability would be heard, and comprises men and women from the Province who have a learning disability. Some members said they were frustrated at the standard of health care they experienced.

Orla Cassidy said that she felt staff needed to focus on her opinions as much as those of parents and carers, while Hilary Gammon said: “Staff should be trained by people like me.”

Full-time carer Sandra Harris has looked after her daughter, who has a number of complex disabilities, for 37 years. Ms Harris, chairwoman of the Equal Lives Action Group, said: “I feel that people are now taking note of the importance and contribution that people with learning disabilities make to society today.”

Lady Christine Eames was responsible for the human rights angle of the review, and her role was to ensure these principles were adequately considered in the whole process. She said with the acceptance of human rights having grown so much, now was the right time to change peoples’ attitudes and make them realise that such rights were applicable to people from all groups. “I hope this review will lead to a better understanding and realisation that human rights and equality principles are not just an optional extra that we can pick up and accept when it suits us, but that there are actually legislative requirements that have to be adhered to,” she said.