By Jan Savage, Director of External Affairs, ENABLE Scotland

AS Scotland’s leading learning disability charity, ENABLE Scotland has been outraged by recent scenes from institutions in England.

The deeply upsetting abuse suffered by people who have a learning disability or autism, at the hands of those employed to care for them, was brought to the fore by a BBC Panorama investigation – eight years after it broadcast an all too similar programme about Winterbourne View.

Although these reports all related to incidents in England, it would be wrong to assume that Scotland does not have action to take. Despite the progress we have made – especially since the decision to close institutions nearly 20 years ago – we have some way to go, as shown by the Scottish Government’s Coming Home report which was published just six months ago.

The report revealed that more than 700 people from Scotland are being cared for away from their own area – for almost half of them, this has been the case for more than 10 years.

Of these, 453 people did not choose to be cared for away from home, and 109 were identified as needing to return as a priority.

Even more shocking is that 79 people have had to move out of Scotland altogether – meaning some of them could even be among those cases identified by England’s Children’s Commissioner recently. She found that too many children are being admitted to secure hospitals unnecessarily, with some spending years in institutions. We can’t say for sure that Scottish people are not caught up in these figures.

The Coming Home report makes several recommendations around strengthening social care services in the community, in an attempt to ensure that Scotland never returns to institutionalised care. Supporting family carers is key, as well as improving commissioning and planning of services and housing. So too is developing the social care workforce through better quality training in techniques such as Positive Behaviour Support which de-escalates situations for individuals before they become distressed – quite the opposite of what Panorama bore witness to.

Over the last two years, we have been investing in just this – developing an integrated frontline health and social care workforce with our partners at Glasgow Caledonian University. This work adds to 65 years of campaigning and tackling some of the innovations needed to demonstrate how change can be implemented effectively in the delivery of social care. It goes to the heart of the values established by our founding families who in 1954 set up the charity, determined that their children would not spend their lives in institutions.

As we saw at the end of the Panorama documentary, and as I see every day in my work, this is achievable for everyone with the right support.

The policy direction in Scotland is on the right track. The steer from the Scottish Government is that the balance of public spend will be shifted out of acute NHS settings and into community-based care over the next five years.

Until this happens, we must resist moves towards institutionalised settings, because no matter how new the building is, how well trained the staff are or how good the facilities are – institutions are never the answer.

We are calling on all parties – the Scottish Government, local authority commissioners and Integrated Joint Boards, and, importantly, providers themselves to act now and deliver a plan to support all 700 people identified in the November 2018 report to come home. And, most importantly, to get the right support to live a good life.