Letter: Community care

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The Independent Culture
Community care

Sir: "Care in the community is thrown out" was your headline (30 July) reporting that Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health admitted that: "Care in the community has failed. Discharging people from institutions has brought benefits to some..."

In publicising this failure in well-intentioned public policy, no mention was made of the equally sad case of the care in the community policy for people who suffer from permanent mental handicap/learning disability. Some of these people have also benefited but there are others whose lives have become more restricted in their daily activities.

For these people to return to barrack-like institutions would be retrograde. However, many hospitals for people with mental handicap were built as open campuses in pleasant surroundings convenient to towns. To utilise such suitable sites for homes in open village clusters, with medical, therapeutic and day facilities within walking or wheelchair distance would provide a choice of lifestyle that is currently not available on anything like the scale that is desired. Long term this would be a better policy decision than the short- term gain that comes from selling the assets for development as luxury housing.

There is good evidence that many parents and relatives, and those people with a mental handicap able to understand, desire access to village-style residential communities. A significant number who are already living in the community would prefer life in the larger social grouping of a village community. Such an option would be care-effective and cost-effective.

MURIEL BROOK

Dorking, Surrey

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