Today,, the government have finally published their ‘action plan’ – ‘Building the Right Support,’ which is a national plan to get people with a learning disability and/or autism out of inpatient mental health hospitals across England. The ‘action plan’ is the latest government step in over a decade of work following the Winterbourne View scandal, where BBC’s Panorama exposed the shocking abuse of people with learning disabilities at a privately run-specialist hospital. Since then, there have been countless promises to get people with a learning disability and/or autism out of in-patient mental health hospitals.
These hospitals are places where people with a learning disability and/or autism are at increased risk of abuse and neglect, including through misuse of restraint and overmedication. The human rights breaches, abuse scandals and trauma people have experienced in many of these settings are well documented through police investigations, regulatory inspections and urgent recommendations for change including from parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Care Quality Commission.
Responding to the plan’s publication, Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Mencap, (pictured) said:
“There are still over 2,000 people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in in-patient mental health hospitals, with the average length of stay over five years. This long-awaited plan is a step towards delivering on the unfulfilled promises made by governments over more than a decade to get people out of these institutions following repeated abuse scandals. However, only by investing in the community support and housing needed will we be able to close in-patient hospital beds and stop a new generation of people from becoming trapped in these places.”
Rebecca Davis, 29, has spent four years fighting for her brother Elliot, who has autism and learning disabilities, to be released from an inpatient unit miles away from their home in North Yorkshire, said:
“When my brother Elliot was admitted to hospital back in 2018, we hoped he would receive the help he needed and be able to return home within a few weeks. But more than four years have gone by, and he’s still being detained.
“Elliot has autism and learning disabilities, and he doesn’t need to be there. Taking people hundreds of miles away from home isn’t the answer – Elliot is scared and homesick. He has no quality of life and being stuck in an ATU makes everything worse.
“We’ve been working with specialist lawyers and Elliot has been fit for discharge since September. We hope he’ll be able to come back home later this month, but it all depends on whether the right community care package is ready for him.
“The process of finding and implementing the right care provider, finding appropriate accommodation and the lack of communication between all organisations is a huge problem. If all parts of the system work together, the length of time people would spend in ATU’s would be considerably less, minimising the trauma that’s inflicted on them.
“All we want is for Elliot to live in his home and to have a suitable care package so he can make the most of life. Elliot needs specialist support, but he does not deserve to be shut away and detained in isolation.
“It feels like nothing has changed since the Winterbourne View scandal – if anything, things have got a lot worse. People continue to suffer, and I just want my brother to be with us – safe and happy at home and the same for all the other people stuck in ATU’s. They deserve better.”