£3m NI Learning Disability Plan

The government has pledged £3m to ensure that no children will be living in a hospital in two years’ time. The announcement follows news that 100 adults and 17 children with learning disabilities have been living in hospital unnecessarily – because of a lack of funding to keep them in the community.

This morning Health Minister Paul Goggins announced that the money would fund a new eight-place unit for children and a second assessment and treatment centre at Muckamore Abbey in Antrim.

He also said plans were being put in place to allow 40 people with learning disabilities to be re-settled back in the community every year.

The minister told listeners to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: ” It’s a pledge that I am making today and it begins with four young people being placed back in the community in a few weeks’ time and then more later in the year.

“In the longer term we will be providing an eight-place unit for children, away from Muckamore, so that they can be placed there, closer to the community rather than in a big hospital institution. It is a radical step but I think it is an important one. I don’t think that Muckamore, a long-stay learning disability hospital, is an appropriate place for a child and today I am signalling that that has come to an end.”

The £3m is due to come from funding allocated for the implementation of the Bamford Review next year, however the minister has insisted that it is new money.

He added: “The action plan today comes with £3m of new money. This is money that had been set aside for next year’s budget to fund some of the reforms of the Bamford Review. We are using that money now to make sure that people move back into the community more rapidly than would otherwise have happened.

“The majority of the £3m is actually to accelerate the programme of placing more long stay patients back in the community. At the moment about 25 patients a year are being settled back in the community. We are going to accelerate that programme so that we get that up to 40 people a year.”