News story

Children with autism or learning disabilities are living in mental health hospitals

A new report today from the Children’s Commissioner shows that too many children are being admitted to secure hospitals unnecessarily.

Instead of being supported within their community, some children are spending large periods of their childhoods in institutions.

The report casts aspersions on the current system of support for those with learning disabilities or autism, which is letting down some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

The report also finds shocking evidence of poor and restrictive practices and sedation, with some children telling the Children’s Commissioner how their stay in a mental health hospital has been traumatic and parents are too often left feeling powerless to do anything to intervene.

The report shows some startling statistics, including the fact that the average time children with autism and/or a learning disability had spent in their current hospital was 6 months and that 1 in 4 children did not appear to have had a formal review of their care plan within the last 26 weeks.

Responding to today’s findings, Tim Cooper, chief executive at learning disability charity United Response said:

‘Today’s report on ‘treatment’ methods for children with learning disabilities, some as young as ten years old, lays bare the catastrophic failures within our health and care system.
‘To subject children to regular and physical restraint, inappropriate and powerful medication, and to periods of prolonged segregation within secure mental health wards should be a practice long-consigned to history.

‘It has been seven years since the Winterbourne View scandal revealed shameful institutional abuse, and six years since Government vowed to end this ‘normalisation of cruelty’ in parts of the care system.

‘Yet successive reviews, respected academic studies and NHS data all consistently highlight a failure to meet this pledge.

‘Social care faces a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing levels of care, and these are demonstrably and tragically failing far too many people.
‘Cash-strapped local authorities are unable to commission specialist care packages and appoint experienced staff to deliver the necessary support for people to move out of secure wards.

‘As a dedicated and longstanding provider of bespoke community-based care for young people with learning disabilities and autism, United Response is continually showing how vulnerable people can be supported in making the move from ‘hospital to home’.
‘With the right backing, we and other support providers can move even more vulnerable people of all ages back into the community and stop this longstanding problem in its tracks.
‘We are ready to work with central and local Government to ensure that people with complex needs are given the tailored support they deserve and in the communities in which they belong.’

Last week, our BAPS Awards finalist Jeremy Harris was recognised for his tireless campaigning on this subject. His daughter Beth was placed in a seclusion cell and he makes regular radio and television appearances to highlight the current situation of children and adults being held in inappropriate settings. You can support his campaign by following him on Twitter.

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