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“Barbaric and inhumane” care is “generating trauma” for Disabled children

28 April 2021

The Health and Social Care Committee has heard of the horrifying conditions that Disabled people live in.

Benji O’Reilly, herself an NHS worker, told the Committee that her autistic teenage daughter’s treatment in the care of the NHS was "barbaric and inhumane". She cited examples of her daughter having to wait for 30 hours in A&E for a space in an infant ward, being kept in “a tiny box-sized, bland side-room for four weeks, with no fresh air, no exercise, no stimulation, no activities, not able to see friends, family, pets… Unsurprisingly, she had a huge meltdown and started displaying some, what is seen as, challenging behaviour".

She said: "She has been treated like a criminal at times. She has often asked why she's being punished." And described how her daughter was "physically pulled away from me and restrained in front of my eyes", having been left "screaming and crying for her mum" when the hospital cancelled a planned visit without warning.

Dr Sarah Ryan told the Committee how her son Connor died in a bath in a learning disability unit. She told the committee the only treatment he was given in nearly four months was a change in medication which led to increased seizures. She said: "We are generating traumatic experiences for people and then puzzling about why we cannot release people back into the community… There is absolutely no reason why anybody should be restrained or secluded in the 21st century for health-related reasons."

In the same week, the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership serious case review looking into the circumstances which led to autistic teenager Jonty Bravery to throw a six year-old child from a sixth floor balcony at the Tate Modern gallery in London has highlighted the acute shortage of specialist care for children with high risk and complex behaviour.

Chair of the Committee, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK needed "radical change" in how it deals with people with learning disabilities and autism.

Care Minister Helen Whately said: "Everyone is calling out, myself included, for there to be more effective support in the community. We need greater clarity on what does actually work in the community, what is the right model, so we can then say to every area across the country: 'Make sure you have this in place.'"

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “These stories are heartbreaking and shocking, and yet they are going under the radar of national consciousness. Disabled children are still being treated with the means and methods used in Victorian asylums – the stuff of horror films. But this is not grotesque fiction, it is lived experience. The Government must commit to investing money and setting timescales to end these practices which amount to torture and abuse and which haunt the lives of those who experience such dreadful treatment for a lifetime.”