Joint Committee on Human Rights Report

The Joint Committee on Human Rights have today published the findings of their inquiry  into the detention of children and young people with learning disabilities and autism.

The findings of the inquiry mirror our experience of supporting families over the past 20 years and exposes again the shocking treatment of children and adults including seclusion and restrictive interventions. These are not isolated incidents but the inevitable consequence of a system that fails to value the lives of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities, and a system that places them in closed institutional services because of a lack of good support in the community. There is no excuse because we know how to support children and adults successfully in the community by putting the support they need in place around them.

The report, the latest in a long line of reports and inquiries, confirms what people with learning disabilities and families have been saying for years- that “the system”, meant to be there to protect and support children and adults with learning disabilities and/ autism, is not fit for purpose and that individuals are being significantly harmed as a result. The Committee has “no confidence” that the NHS Long Term plan will successfully “reduce the numbers of people with learning disabilities and/or autism in mental health hospitals” and calls for what has been called for previously many times - strong Government leadership and action.

The response from the Department of Health and Social Care is their standard response to all such reports – they say they are committed to ensuring that children and adults with learning disabilities and/ or autism receive the care and support they need. But we all know that too many don’t get that support. The report says that this is “urgent”. It has been urgent for years, but so far despite the statements there is no evidence that the much-repeated commitment is delivering change. It’s time that those who are in positions where they can make a difference demonstrate leadership and actually do something.

The report states that family carers must be valued as key partners in every decision and recognises their essential and influential role. Families and organisations have consistently identified the need for a cross government strategy which we are pleased to see included in the main recommendation body of this report. We welcome the call for “a Number 10 unit, with cabinet level leadership” to protect the rights of this vulnerable group.


There has been no shortage of reports and reviews over the past 8 years, reaching the same conclusions. However, there has a been a distinct lack of meaningful progress or outcomes, with many young people (and adults) still stuck in ATUs experiencing restrictive interventions; many young people at home on the brink of crisis with no local support and many young families with less, rather than more support than a typically developing child, despite the numerous challenges they face. They need the right support in the right place at the right time - to live the lives they have a right to in their community


The report states: “The biggest barrier to progress is a lack of political focus and accountability to drive change.”

There must now be strong national leadership and a fully funded cross- Government strategy to deliver the recommendations in this report. We need evidence of commitment.

If you are supporting a child or adult with severe learning disabilities whose behaviour challenges and are in need of support or information please visit our website or contact us on our Family Support Line 0300 666 0126.

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