Autism Together welcomes the findings, released today, of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and its recommendations to protect young people with autism and those with learning difficulties in mental health hospitals.
The Committee, made up of MPs and peers, has called for an overhaul of inspections and changes to the Mental Health Act.
Some of the group’s key findings include:
- A lack of political focus and accountability to drive change in mental health hospitals.
- The detention of those with learning disabilities and/or autism is often inappropriate, causes suffering and does long-term damage.
- The right housing, social care and health services needed to prevent people being detained inappropriately are not being commissioned at local level.
- Too often families of young people, who may be desperately trying to advocate on behalf of their children are considered to be the problem, when they can and should to be the solution.
The Committee has suggested some urgent changes including:
- The establishment of a Number 10 Unit, with cabinet level leadership, to urgently drive forward reform and safeguard the human rights of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism.
- Families of those with learning disabilities and/or autism must be recognised as human rights defenders.
- The creation of legal duties on Clinical Commission Groups and local authorities to ensure the right services are available in the community.
- Narrowing of the Mental Health Act criteria to avoid inappropriate detention.
The Committee’s Chair, Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP QC, said:
“This inquiry has shown with stark clarity the urgent change that is needed and we’ve set out simple proposals for exactly that. They must now be driven forward, urgently.
“It has been left to the media and desperate, anguished parents to expose the brutal reality of our system of detention of people with learning disabilities or autism. We must not look away. The horrific reality is of whole lives needlessly blighted, and families in despair.
“What we saw does not fit our society’s image of itself as one which cares for the vulnerable and respects everyone’s human rights. It must not be allowed to continue.”
Jane Carolan, Deputy CEO of Autism Together, said:
“We believe it is vital that people with autism receive the appropriate care and support within their communities. We are also aware how much families need support to keep their loved ones at home and access the appropriate treatment.”