NHS institutions for people with learning disabilities are set to close and residents moved to their own homes.
The Department of Health announced the closure of the health service's remaining 'campuses' yesterday as part of a drive to return people with learning disabilities to the community.
Care services minister Ivan Lewis said the move marked a revolution in how the NHS helps people with learning disabilities.
"This announcement will bring to a close one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history," he said.
The government is proving £175 million to build new homes and provide day facilities. Mr Lewis yesterday opened a bidding process for local authorities and Primary Care Trusts.
At least 1,600 people with learning difficulties live in NHS campuses. The Department of Health (DoH) now acknowledges this can prevent them from developing social skills or being able to handle everyday situations.
Mr Lewis said: "Putting people with learning disabilities in hospitals and large scale institutions was a scandal which disfigured our society. People who are neither a danger to themselves or others have the right to live in the community.
"I am proud of the fact that by 2010 the remaining residents in NHS campuses will move into the community. Every individual will receive high quality support at a level required to ensure they have a full life. No one will be left isolated and vulnerable.
"This decision underlines the Government's belief that people with learning disabilities are people first with a right to expect equality of citizenship."
All residents will receive an individual assessment to provide them with an individual care plan before they leave their campus.
Welcoming the announcement, Dame Jo Williams from MENCAP said: "People with a learning disability should have the opportunity to make choices about where and how they live.
"The funding provides the incentive for Primary Care Trusts, in conjunction with local authorities, to get on with closure plans, so people with a learning disability can live their lives the way they want, within their community."