A scathing report by an all-party group of MPs shines a light on the ‘horrific reality’ of young people detained (wrongly) under the mental Health Act.
The same report which calls for urgent cabinet-level action says:” Too often families of those with learning disabilities and/or autism are considered to be the problem when they ought to be the solution. Families must be recognised as human rights defenders.”
The Committee’s findings
- It has “no confidence that the target to reduce the numbers of people with learning disabilities and/or autism in mental health hospitals, set out in the NHS Long Term plan, will be met”. The biggest barrier to progress is a lack of political focus and accountability to drive change.
- The detention of those with learning disabilities and/or autism is often inappropriate. It causes suffering and does long term damage.
- The right housing, social care and health services needed to prevent people being detained inappropriately are simply not being commissioned at local level.
- Too often families of young people, who may be desperately trying advocate on behalf of their children are considered to be the problem, when they can and should to be the solution.
Families will be all-too-familiar with this. The Committee describes the “grim”, predictable pathway to inappropriate detention in these potentially “brutal” circumstances: Early family concerns raised with the GP or school lead to lengthy waits for assessment and diagnosis while the family struggles on alone, trying to cope.
Then some trigger – a home move, a parent falling ill – unsettles the young person and their condition deteriorates. Professionals meet to discuss what should happen, but parents are not included. The child is taken away from their home and the familiarity and routine so essential to them, often many miles away and placed with strangers. Desperately concerned parents are treated as hostile and as a problem.
“My son was kept in seclusion for up to nine hours at a time. The rule was that he could not leave until he was quiet. With his anxiety and sensory presentation, there was no way this was possible. He started to bang his head against the wall and would bite the wood in the doorframe out of desperation.”
One parent told the MPs: “My son was kept in seclusion for up to nine hours at a time. The rule was that he could not leave until he was quiet. With his anxiety and sensory presentation, there was no way this was possible. He started to bang his head against the wall and would bite the wood in the doorframe out of desperation.”
The report also take to task the Care Quality Commission for being ineffective and focussing too narrowly on the provision rather than what is best for the individual.
At the root of this totally unacceptable situation is the mistaken assumption that learning disability is a mental health issue. It is not. A learning disability is not an illness any more than is old age – even if occasionally the two overlap.
What is needed a root and branch reform that offers the greatest possible choice to the learning disabled and their families to live the life they choose.
Alliance for Camphill