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100 people held more than 20 years in ‘institutions’

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One hundred people with learning disabilities and autism in England have been held in specialist hospitals for at least 20 years, the BBC has learned.

The finding was made during an investigation into the case of an autistic man detained since 2001. Tony Hickmott's parents are fighting to get him housed in the community near them.

Mr Hickmott's case is being heard at the Court of Protection - which makes decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who "lack mental capacity".

Senior Judge Carolyn Hilder has described "egregious" delays and "glacial" progress in finding him the right care package which would enable him to live in the community. He lives in a secure Assessment and Treatment Unit (ATU) - designed to be a short-term safe space used in a crisis. It is a two-hours' drive from his family.

This week, Judge Hilder lifted the anonymity order on Mr Hickmott's case - ruling it was in the public interest to let details be reported. She said he had been "detained for so long" partly down to a "lack of resources".

Like many young autistic people with a learning disability, Mr Hickmott struggled as he grew into an adult. In 2001, he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He is now 44.

In addition to the 100 patients, including Mr Hickmott, who have been held for more than 20 years - there are currently nearly 2,000 other people with learning difficulties and/or autism detained in specialist hospitals across England.

In 2015, the Government promised "homes not hospitals" when it launched its Transforming Care programme in the wake of the abuse and neglect scandal uncovered by the BBC at Winterbourne View specialist hospital near Bristol. But data shows the programme has had minimal impact.

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Source: BBC News, 24 November 2021

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