Care England has accused the government of betraying thousands of vulnerable people with learning disabilities and autism.
It said more than 2,000 adults needing specialist accommodation are languishing in hospital or inappropriate assessment centres for months because of flawed policy on care homes and inflexible bureaucracy.
The representative body for independent social care services said due to regulations care homes are unable to have more than six places for adults with learning difficulties or autism at one site.
The Transforming Care programme, launched by the Department of Health and Social Care in 2012, aimed to close 30-50% of inpatient beds for those with learning disabilities or autism by March 2019. However, this has not been met.
The failure has largely been down to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) limiting the number of rooms allowed in a learning disability home, Care England claim, something that has been rejected by the regulator.
The representative body is demanding action from Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to solve the crisis and it wants to see the CQC axe the six-bed size limit and focus only on the person.
Professor Martin Green, Care England chief executive, said: ‘How can it be right that 2,000 of the most vulnerable people in our society are being left to rot in totally unsuitable institutions, simply because of petty, inflexible red tape.
‘Care homes are ready and willing to provide specialised and suitable accommodation but are prevented from doing so by this crazy “six only” rule. It’s nothing short of betrayal.’
He said adults were often moved away from their families rather than placed in specialist units close to their homes and loved ones.
‘Mr Hancock needs to get a grip on his department and sort this out,’ Prof Green said. ‘He’s been in the job for 18 months day so he can no longer blame his predecessors. This is his problem.’
Kate Terroni, CQC chief inspector of adult social care, said the regulator adopts the presumption that small services usually accommodate six or fewer people, which is in line with best practice set out in Building the Right Support.
However, she added: ‘We do not adopt “six” as a rigid rule for providers of any service for people with a learning disability and/or autistic people. We may register providers who have services that are small scale, but accommodate more than six people, if they can demonstrate that they follow all of the principles and values in Building the Right Support guidance, and meet the fundamental standards and other relevant regulations.
‘We know that the provision of care to people with a learning disability and/or autistic people is complex. There are multiple factors that affect outcomes for people and that is why we do not consider the size of service in isolation from other factors such as staff skills, effectiveness of management and evidence base for the proposed care model.’
She added the CQC shared Care England’s concerns about the progress of delivering on targets set out in Transforming Care programme.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to reduce the number of people with autism or learning disabilities in mental health hospitals. Significant investment in community support has already led to a 24% reduction, and we are determined to go further.
‘The NHS will reduce inpatient numbers by 35% and through the long-term plan we will reduce numbers even further by investing in specialist services and community crisis care in every local area.’