A call for the prime minister to appoint a learning disability commissioner to protect the rights of people with learning disabilities has been made as a result of the shocking case of Ian Shaw, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after staff at his secure hospital failed to spot early signs of the disease.
34-year-old Ian Shaw spent nine years in secure hospitals before being recently moved into community care, where shortly after the cancer was discovered but was too advanced to be treated.
Sir Stephen Bubb, author of two reports on secure units, has urged May to look again at his recommendation that the government should set up an office of a Commissioner for People with Learning Disabilities, with the aim to uphold the rights of people with learning disabilities.
Sir Stephen has told the prime minister that this case highlights the ongoing failures of institutional care. He said Ian’s case “has led me to believe that institutional care is at root abusive and we must close these institutions.”
The call for a Learning Disability Commissioner has been welcomed by charities such as the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. Chief executive, Vivien Cooper, called the suggestion helpful but added that it needed to be part of a “clear strategy, resources and implementation framework.”
However, the Department of Health said ministers had no plans for a learning disability commissioner. A spokeswoman said “in recent years we’ve made significant improvements by closing inpatient facilities and moving towards personalised community-based care, supported by rigorous independent inspections to stamp out poor care and abuse, to give people the support they deserve.”