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Inappropriate placement of children with learning disabilities in mental health hospitals examined

27 March 2019

The Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the inappropriate placement of children and adults with learning disabilities and/or autism in mental health hospitals, and the threat that such placements pose to their human rights.


Wednesday 27 March, Committee Room 2A

At 10.30am

  • Simon Duffy, Director of Centre for Welfare Reform
  • Dame Christine Lenehan, Director, Council for Disabled Children and Caoilfhionn Gallaher QC

The draft call for evidence for the inquiry seeks views on:

  • Whether the Government's Transforming Care programme, which aims to significantly reduce the number of those detained inappropriately, has been successful; and, if not, why not.
  • If it has not been successful what needs to be done to ensure that the numbers detained are reduced more rapidly.
  • Whether the human rights of people with learning disabilities and/or autism who are detained in mental health hospitals are being breached.
  • If, so how are they breached and what needs to be done to better protect them


In the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal in 2011 it became clear that many people with a learning disability and/ or autism are detained in mental health hospitals inappropriately. The Department of Health's national policy response, Transforming Care committed to significantly reduce the numbers. However, despite some progress they remain stubbornly high:

  • At the end of October 2018 2,350 people were in learning disability and autism inpatient settings down from 2,865 in March 2015 58% of whom had been there for a period of over 2 years.
  • The number of under 18s in these settings have more than doubled to 250 since March 2015 when there were only 110.
  • Concerns have been raised in evidence about high and rising levels of restraint and solitary confinement in these institutions.  In 2016, people were recorded as being subjected to restraint on 15,065 occasions. In 2017 this figure had increased by exactly 50%, to 22,620 restraint ‘episodes'. If the projected figures for 2018 are right, the number of times people are restrained is set to increase even further, to 25,812 episodes.

Also to note:

  • In March 2017 the NAO published its assessment of the Transforming Care Programme.
  • In Dec 2018 the National Autistic Society published its report called Beyond Transforming Care: what needs to change?
  • Kevin Healey's petition on the parliament website calling for “an end to the detention of people who are autistic or have a learning disability in mental health hospitals”

Further information

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