Shocking report published today exposes brutal reality of our system when young people with learning disabilities or autism are detained

Friday 1 November 2019

Today, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights published a devastating report into the “horrific reality” of conditions and treatment under which many young people with learning disabilities and autism are detained in mental health hospitals, “inflicting terrible suffering on those detained and causing anguish to their distraught families”

Evidence to the inquiry into the detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism was so “stark” and consistent that the Committee says it has “lost confidence that the system is doing what it says it is doing and the regulator’s method of checking is not working.

It has been left to the media, notably the BBC and Ian Birrell in the Mail on Sunday, to expose abuse says the report. “No-one thinks this is acceptable.” In relation to the Care Quality Commission, the Committee finds that “a regulator which gets it wrong is worse than no regulator at all”.

Amanda Batten, CEO of Contact says: “We remain deeply saddened and incredibly frustrated that the horrific and traumatising treatment of young disabled people outlined in today’s report is being allowed to continue. We agree that too often families are considered to be the problem when they ought to be part of the solution. We need to see more action, and central to this must be a stronger focus on supporting families – from the outset, not as an afterthought.”

The Committee is calling for overhaul of inspections and changes to Mental Health Act to protect those detained from “horrific reality”. Number 10 unit with Cabinet level leadership required to urgently drive forward reform.

The Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP QC, Chair of the Committee, said: “This inquiry has shown with stark clarity the urgent change that is needed and we’ve set out simple proposals for exactly that. They must now be driven forward, urgently.

“It has been left to the media and desperate, anguished parents to expose the brutal reality of our system of detention of people with learning disabilities or autism. We must not look away. The horrific reality is of whole lives needlessly blighted, and families in despair. What we saw does not fit our society’s image of itself as one which cares for the vulnerable and respects everyone’s human rights. It must not be allowed to continue.”