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Committee investigates impact of draft Mental Health Bill on people with learning disabilities or autism

14 October 2022

The draft Mental Health Bill proposes removing learning disabilities and autism as conditions which can justify long term civil detention in inpatient care (if the person is suffering no concurrent mental health conditions.) The Joint Committee will question clinicians and experts on whether this is likely to improve the treatment of people with autism and learning disabilities.


Tuesday 18 October 2022


  • Tim Nicholls, Head of Influencing, National Autistic Society
  • Dan Scorer, Policy, Public Affairs, Information and Advice, MenCap Society
  • Gail Petty, Advocacy Lead, National Development Team for Inclusion
  • Simone Aspis, Free Our People Now Project Manager, Inclusion London

At 5.00pm

  • Dr Margaret Flynn, Chair, National Mental Capacity Forum
  • Dr Quinton Deeley
  • Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, National Autism Unit and Neuropsychiatry Brain Injury Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust
  • Professor Rohit Shankar, Deputy Chair, Faculty of the Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability, Royal College of Psychiatrists

An independent review found that the current Mental Health Act is “being used inappropriately for people with a learning disability, autism or both.” In the Committee’s previous session, a witness recounted her experience of being “transported in cages and handcuffs” while held in detention. The Committee is expected to examine whether proposed changes to the bill sufficiently prohibit unnecessary and harmful detention while simultaneously allowing people with autism and learning disabilities access to the right support.

The session is likely to discuss concerns that alternative legislation could still be used to inappropriately detain people with learning disabilities or autism, in spite of changes to the Mental Health Act. Members may also consider whether, without detention, autistic people and people with learning disabilities may be diverted through the criminal justice system or an underdeveloped community service.

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock