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Damning new MP report calls for end to long-term incarceration of people with autism and learning disabilities

16 July 2021

Fresh calls from MPs to end the incarceration of over 2,000 people with autism and learning disabilities in long-term inpatient units have been made off the back of a new report by the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee.

The failure to address poor treatment of people with autism and learning disabilities is a scandal, according to MPs calling for a ban on new long-term admissions to inpatient units.

The report highlights that most people stay in in-patient units for around six years, with many being “unable to live fulfilled lives…and… too often subject to treatment that is an affront to a civilised society”.

MPs are calling for greater community provision to end “intolerable treatment” including abusive physical restriction, long-term detention periods, and unacceptable distancing from loved ones.

The report says that in-patients are treated “as if their condition is an illness instead of a fundamental part of their identity… The tragic result of this fatal misunderstanding is that they often do then develop mental or physical illnesses which are used to justify their continued detention.”

MPs are calling for person-centred services; the closure of assessment and treatment units, which in theory are only supposed to be a bridging placement for people returning to the community, within two years; and any admissions to in-patient facilities to be for short stays, close to home.

The report goes on to say that “poor treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities has been a long-standing problem for the NHS and care system… The fact that these issues have not been resolved even a decade later is a scandal in its own right, quite separate to the original tragedy.”

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We’ve heard these calls before. Now is the time for Government to take decisive action.”