Over Promising

It’s a tough time for Matt Hancock. Poised to throw his hat into the Tory leadership contest ring, his department and NHSE are having to face an almost daily bombardment of appalling stories concerning the lives of autistic people and people with learning disabilities.

Just in the last two weeks we’ve seen:

1. Silence around the publication of the social care green paper.

2. Another delay in the release of the Leder deaths review.

3. An odd blog from Paul Lelliott of the CQC updating readers of the progress of the CQC restraint review.

4. A Sky News programme about the state of mental health provision and ATUs.

5. A Panorama expose about widespread abuse in ATUs, 8 years on from Winterbourne View.

6. A leaked story in the HSJ about a government plan to set up “provider collaboratives” where commissioning responsibilities will be handed over to the providers of LD inpatient services.

7. Several newspaper stories highlighting individual human rights violations of learning disabled people in State and private services.

8. George Julian live tweeting the latest shocking inquest of deeply ingrained system failure.

9. The UN torture committee are currently investigating the UK and its treatment of disabled people in inpatient services.

It’s all a bit of a shambles isn’t it Matt?

An unexpected thing happened on Tuesday evening. A few of us in a private social media group were asked to put a “wish list” plan together to send to Matt Hancock. A two hour deadline. It was very ad-hoc. I only happened to be around because I couldn’t decide whether to watch an Anne Widdicombe interview or the enticing Lip Fillers Gone Wrong.

Two hours to put a major plan together to obtain Matt’s buy in. In hindsight it might have been better to tell him to sling his hook. But we came up with the 8 point plan below. It’s not great. There’s probably lots of other things we could have included. It’s not particularly coherent. But we tried. We took our inspiration from S Club 7 and reached for the stars.

The Matt Hancock Plan:

“The key is to have a rights-based approach – a system to ensure local areas have plans to uphold citizen rights, in conjunction with people and families, which is then monitored to ensure this actually happens. And then when an individual’s rights are not being upheld, the local authorities is held accountable. Also, of course, to boost community provision and support to ensure people don’t spiral into crisis.

1) A discharge plan for every person with autism and/or LDs in psychiatric inpatient settings within 6 months with an agreed discharge plan for community services, based around and recognising the human rights of the individuals. Reviews then take place annually for every person still sectioned.

2) New, independent centralised body to drive process led by experts by experience/families/people with senior political accountability/expert lawyers from field. This body must have real authority to direct and monitor delivery. Where commissioners are failing to be able to use statutory powers (under Localism Act) to take over and deliver community services. Answering direct to secretary of state for health and chief executive NHSE.

3)  Ring fence money to transfer to local authorities/ double funding for existing services if contractual arrangements require or break contracts with failing ATU providers.

4) Families given extra and full rights at all stages of process, including when people are sectioned (i.e. end use of gagging orders, ban on visits, etc).

5) Total transparency on costs and services, with new body issuing annual report publishing all available data on costs, numbers, etc broken down nationally and by local authority.

6) Establishment of new regional hit squads made up of people with learning disabilities and/or autism, families, lawyers and advisers to assist any people where there is the possibility raised of sectioning to avoid such use wherever possible.

7) Government to back LB Bill that proposes legislation making community support the default option instead of hospital or institutional care as a default to stop more people unnecessarily entering ATU s when a community service is more appropriate – although person’s and family choice always paramount.

8) STOMP principles to be embedded in all NHS and private practice. Immediate ban on prone restraint.”

The response couldn’t have been more dispiriting. The most he would commit to was a heavily diluted version of Point 1. Another review arising from the CQC review. That’s it. Points 2 to 8 didn’t even merit a mention. I wish I’d watched Anne Widdicombe instead.

Today, Ian Birrell has written another searing article (link below) which includes a statement from Matt Hancock. He trots out his regular line about being “moved”. He announces his review of the review. And he ends by promising that he will never “over promise”.


Matt mate. Never fear. In all your responsibilities, legal and moral, towards people with learning disabilities, one thing you can never be accused of is over promising. Good luck with your leadership challenge. Don’t worry too much about how many people with learning disabilities are admitted to and restrained in ATUs during your campaign. Don’t lose any sleep over how many people with learning disabilities die preventable deaths whilst you’re on the campaign hustings. You haven’t promised them anything. How could that backfire on your bid?


I was telling the “over promising” story to the support worker and Steven was ear wigging. Ever eager to find a song to suit the moment, Steven put this on the CD player.

Matt – here’s your campaign soundtrack. Courtesy of Steven Neary, a man you would never over promise to.



2 thoughts on “Over Promising”

  1. Please don’t apologise for the excellent plan you produced in 2 hours. Since 8 years, the systems for improvement haven’t been able.
    I’m sure many good professionals feel gagged, and others aren’t interested in improving anyone’s life but their own. It’s becoming clearer every time we see the programmes or newspaper articles that the skilled professionals don’t do the work that commissioners pay for – the work simply isn’t carried out.

  2. […] Why the total lack of interest from the government? The LeDeR report was published in a way that MPs were not able to ask questions of it. Norman Lamb requested to ask an open question and this was denied. Matt Hancock meanwhile could only promise not to over-promise. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s