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BASW England statement in response to BBC News findings that “100 people held more than 20 years in ‘institutions’”

These findings reaffirm the importance of our Homes Not Hospitals campaign

A BBC News investigation has uncovered a shocking statistic that 100 people with autism and learning difficulties have been held for more than 20 years in what is known as Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs).

The BBC also overturned a court order which had prevented the reporting of a case relating to a man named Tony Hickmott, age 44, who has remained in an ATU since 2001. This was despite the promise of him only being in there for 9 months.

These findings reaffirm the importance of our Homes Not Hospitals campaign which exists to promote support for people who are autistic and people with learning disabilities to live independent and fulfilling lives and not be left stuck in hospital units.

Detained in hospital Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) or in restrictive care arrangements and seclusion units, often for years, these citizens are not being given the right housing, care, and support to enable them to live independent and fulfilled lives.

Alexis Quinn, Person with lived experience:

“For some reason we are seen as less than human. Being locked away and warehoused for no other reason than autism and/or a learning disability will never make sense to me. Tony is in that place not because of his uniqueness but because people have been neglecting their statutory duties and have been allowed to get away with it.”

Hazel Griffiths, Family carer:

“We have to stop the mass exportation of autistic people and or learning disabilities, out of area, hundreds of mile away, poor commissioning oversight and disproportionate weight to certain pieces of legislation."

"We have to focus on solutions so the new Mental Health Act proposals can be implemented into practice and shift the dial as many feel powerless and families are left traumatised. Clearly the current system has not worked for families and services not joined up.”

We once again call on Government to ensure sustainable funding is in place now to put human rights first. Ensure investment in place-based community services to enable the transition of individuals from hospital units to places they want to live is made available now. Tony Hickmott and the many others that have been stripped of their human rights deserve better than more missed Government targets and inadequate funding.

The voice and experiences of people with lived experience and their carers must be heard and they must be represented on national boards including the Department for Health and Social care Building the Right Support.

BASW has a longstanding commitment to campaigning with people with lived experience to uphold the human rights and dignity of people who are autistic and/or have learning disabilities.

The aim of our campaign is to promote preventative and joined up approaches in terms of commissioning, human rights-based practice, the role of social work and legal literacy to reduce the risk of situations from reaching the point of hospital admission: https://www.basw.co.uk/homes-not-hospitals

We call on other key stakeholders and those affected by these issues to join with us in our campaign for reforms and to deliver Homes Not Hospitals.