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Learning disabilities and autism: stronger human rights protection in ATUs?

5 December 2018

As part of its inquiry into detention, the Joint Committee on Human Rights will hold two evidence sessions about the treatment of people with learning disabilities and autism in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) and other inpatient units.

Apparent poor treatment in ATUs

Media reports over recent weeks have presented statistics that suggest widespread use of restraint and isolation on adults and children in ATUs, and have highlighted some cases of apparent poor treatment. 

Between 2016 and 2017 the number of recorded restraints increased by 50%, and the number of recorded isolations increased by 40%. 

One 17 year old child has been locked in her room for almost two years.

The Committee raised some of these issues with officials at an evidence session on 17 October

Chair writes to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of JCHR, wrote to Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, on 13 November seeking further details about the investigation that he has ordered the Care Quality Commission to conduct.

ATUs failing to care for most vulnerable people in society

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of JCHR said:

“We have become increasingly concerned by the steady stream of claims about conditions in Assessment and Treatment Units. 

These units are supposed to care for some of the most vulnerable people in society, and yet it seems that some ATUs are failing in this task. 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights will be hearing directly from people who have been detained in inpatient units and from family members.

We will then be asking the people responsible for commissioning and inspecting these units what is being done to protect people's human rights, particularly: the right to liberty and security; the right to a private and family life; and the prohibition of torture, and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Upcoming Committee meetings

  • On Wednesday 12 December, the Committee will meet people who have been detained and family members, to hear about conditions in these units.
  • On Wednesday 9 January, the Committee will question NHS England and the Care Quality Commission, to ask why poor conditions and treatment are permitted and what the CQC's investigation will do to help.

Further information