People with learning disabilities or autism who could be better supported in their community will have their discharges from hospital accelerated thanks to a new £62 million fund, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has revealed.

Named the Community Discharge Fund, the funding will help to move people with learning disabilities and autistic people into more appropriate care: either into less restrictive settings or into the community, where appropriate.

The announcement comes as Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has called for a renewed focus to ensure people with learning disabilities or autism are discharged promptly from hospital back into the community.

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Last year, Matt Hancock asked Baroness Hollins to oversee the independent case reviews for people with a learning disability or autism who were identified as being in long-term segregation. The reviews have made recommendations in each case to support moving people to less restrictive settings as quickly as possible.

Baroness Hollins has now appointed an oversight panel, which will examine findings from these reviews and develop recommendations to the government. The panel is made up of clinical, psychological and commissioning experts as well as those with a lived experience, including family members and advocates.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Far too many people with learning disabilities and autistic people remain in hospital when they could receive better-suited support in their communities, closer to their homes and loved ones.

“So, I am delighted this new funding will help local authorities to support discharges into the community more quickly for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.”

Split over three years, the Community Discharge Fund will give local authorities additional money to remove some of the obstacles to discharging inpatients.

The new funding will help to cover ‘double-running’ costs such as establishing community teams, funding accommodation and staff training. DHSC says local authorities and Transforming Care Partnerships will be able to use the funding on the most appropriate measures for their area.

Areas with the highest number of autistic people or those with learning disabilities currently in inpatient settings will receive the most funding. However, all local areas will receive a share of the funding, the government has confirmed.

The new Community Discharge Fund is on top of a total of £3.7 billion given to councils by the UK Government to support their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The oversight panel will make recommendations to transform the care and treatment of people with a learning disability or autism and prevent unnecessary admissions and the use of restrictive practices in future.

Baroness Hollins said: “Supporting people to live well in their own homes would be the best outcome. In some circumstances people’s mental health may require a short admission for specialist assessment and development of an evidence-based treatment plan, but the majority can and should be able to receive expert mental health treatment and support in the community.”

The independent reviews have made recommendations to improve individual cases and outlined steps to move individuals to less restrictive settings and onto discharge, which will now be considered by the oversight panel.

The panel held its first meeting on the 29th of June and will continue to meet throughout the summer to develop its findings and recommendations.

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