Learning Disabilities & Covid-19 – A Letter to the Minister for Social Care

Helen Whately, MP
Minister for Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
40 Victoria Street
London, SW1H OEU

Dear Helen,

I have been asked to write to you regarding people with learning disabilities and Covid-19 and I seek your assurances on the following:

There have been reports that “do not resuscitate” orders have been issued in care homes for people with learning disabilities or autism. This is a human rights issue. Even during such testing times as we are in now, these freedoms are sacrosanct and protected by the Human Rights Act (1998), Equality Act (2010) and United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).

There are people with learning disabilities and autism who are in patients where the default is seclusion and restraint. I understand that there is a concern these conditions will lead to an increase in poor care. How will this be addressed?

The Government should immediately and regularly release the summaries of notifications of deaths to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme, with both COVID and other causes analysed.

As the situation stands, there is even less attention and scrutiny given to services for people with learning disabilities and these measures may go some way to redress that balance.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Lewisham Council

I have received a response from the Minister’s Office:

Dear Councillor Hall,

Thank you for your correspondence of 7 May to Helen Whately about care homes for people with learning disabilities and autism. I have been asked to reply.

I appreciate your concerns.

I hope you will understand that the Department of Health and Social Care is not able to comment on or intervene in individual cases. The role of the Department is to set out a strategic framework and secure adequate funding for the NHS and adult care services. It is for local authorities to manage care in individual cases and direct their resources in accordance with local priorities and the needs of the communities to which they are accountable.

The responsibility for investigating complaints about social services rests with the responsible local authority. If a resident of Lewisham has made a complaint to you, in your role as councillor, authority is given to Lewisham Council to investigate this complaint.

With regard to statistics on the deaths of care home residents, public trust and confidence in statistics is a fundamental part of the Code of Practice for Statistics. With effect from 29 April, figures for COVID-19 deaths include all cases where there is a positive confirmed test for the virus, using improved data for England produced by Public Health England (PHE).

The figures include deaths with lab-confirmed COVID-19 in all settings, not just those in hospital, and this provides us with a single figure on an equivalent basis for the whole of the UK. Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had previously begun to include deaths outside hospitals, so this change ensures that the UK-wide statistics have the same coverage. Furthermore, to improve the timely availability of data on deaths in care homes involving COVID-19, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) agreed to publish, from 28 April, provisional counts of deaths in care homes, based on statutory notifications by care home providers to the CQC. A separate explanatory statement about the new data has been published jointly by the ONS and the CQC, which can be found at www.ons.gov.uk by searching for ‘publication of statistics on deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes in England transparency statement’.

I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely,
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health and Social Care

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