Day 19: ATUs – a tweet a day #107days

Day 19 features Sam who has very generously agreed to share her learning across #107days. She is doing this through a tweet a day, and so far it’s been fascinating what she has managed to share in just 140 characters a day. As with all contributors to #107days we asked Sam why #JusticeforLB mattered to her and this is what she said:

I and Doreen Kelly set up Beyond Limits nearly three years ago in conjunction with the then Plymouth PCT (now NEW Devon CCG) to set up what I now come to realise was an inspiration project to plan with the 20 people with learning disabilities and their families who had been cruelly placed in Assessment and Treatment Units across the UK, to bring them home where they wanted to be. Inspirational because the commissioners were taking a leap of faith, admitting they had got things wrong and would work in real partnership with us as a Provider, and families and people, for probably one of the first times.

This was not the first experience I have had of working with Assessment and Treatment Units having worked for the previous five years as part of the Change Team brought in to close Budock Hospital in Cornwall and transform their services and then managing for Bournemouth & Poole PCT the closure of their NHS Units. These experiences set a fire in my soul to help people get out and get a life, but the process has been long, hard and frustrating with fighting all the way against the blocks, crap systems and sheer discrimination that exist in the very services that are meant to be helping these people.

We have worked hard to set up tailor made services for people and they are now getting lives and what is more important lives that involve their families again. Every small achievement and smile that I see on a person or family member’s face makes it all worth it. A knock on effect is that we also see that the teams that support people in the personalised way we work also get great rewards from the close relationships they develop with people and they grow in confidence about what can be achieved meaning we are growing a small army of freedom fighters down here in the South West!

However, it was with a heavy heart and yet more tears that I came across Sara’s tweets and blogs in November of last year to be reminded of the scale of the problem and the devastating outcomes that will occur for as long as Assessment and Treatment Units still exist. The death of a loved one must be excruciating in any circumstance, but the needless and wasted life of Connor Sparrowhawk is a national disgrace and I could not but get involved in the campaign. The passion with which Sara has driven the campaign reminded me so much of all the families we work with whose resilience, against all the odds, has been the major contributor to getting people home. My small contribution to the campaign has been to tweet everyday on the things I have learned from the work I have done over the last eight years with Assessment and Treatment Units.

Beyond Limits is a small Organisation and that is how we will stay because to us small is beautiful and small means we can be there for each and every person we support, but the challenge is how to help others to do the same across the UK so when we get heartbreaking calls from families elsewhere we can confidently sign post to other organisations that share our values and will make things happen.

Finally, and just as important and crucial to a new culture that I hope is developing, is stopping the tap that drips people into these units. If the tap is turned off by commissioners Assessment and Treatment Units will not survive. Cultural change will then happen and as long as people think creatively and do not set up local Institutions instead. We then have a fighting chance to stop what happened to Connor ever happening again.

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