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MPs call for ban on admission to long-term institutional care for autistic people and individuals with learning disabilities

13 July 2021

Immediate action needed on use of ‘restrictive practices’ at inpatient facilities

A wide-ranging Report on the treatment and care of autistic people and those with learning disabilities has found that a lack of adequate community provision has led to many experiencing unnecessary admissions to and intolerable treatment in inpatient facilities. MPs describe the situation as a scandal, given it is happening ten years since the notorious case of Winterbourne View.

Assessment and Treatment Units, where the average length of stay is six years, should be replaced by person-centred services which would only admit people for short periods of time and be located close to their homes, says the Committee.

Despite the work of successive governments to support autistic people and those with learning disabilities, at least 2,055 are currently held in secure institutions, where they can be subject to abusive restrictive practices and kept a long distance from family and friends. The Report finds the Government’s actions to date to be insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of Health and Social Care Committee, said:

“It is a matter of national shame that ten years on from the appalling practices uncovered at Winterbourne View, still far too many autistic people and individuals with learning disabilities are detained in secure units.

“Despite commitments by governments over the years, the totally inadequate level of community provision means that autistic people and people with learning disabilities are wrongfully admitted to inpatient facilities and detained for a shocking average of six years. With two thousand people remaining in such institutions it is time to recognise that a voluntary approach to reducing the numbers has failed and long-term admissions should now be banned with alternative community provision set up in their place. 

“We also want to see immediate action on the use restrictive practices by staff – we’ve heard harrowing descriptions of the use of physical restraint, long-term segregation and seclusion in inpatient facilities. None of this is worthy of a 21st century healthcare system and we call on Ministers and NHS England to act with urgency on our recommendations.”

A full list of conclusions and recommendations can be found in the attached Report.

Further information

Image: Creative Commons