• Simone


Institutionalisation is back for disabled people through the backdoor of the Mental Health Act.

Over the past decade there has been an explosion of disabled people being detained under the Mental Health Act. According to Mental Health Act statistics there has been an increase of 47% disabled people being detained (or sectioned) under the Mental Health Act; 29% of the reported Act’s sectioning provisions were used during 2014-2016.

The Mental Health Act 1983 permits the sectioning of disabled people with learning difficulties and autism without having a diagnosed mental health condition. Disabled people with Autism or Learning Difficulties can be detained if their medical condition-related behaviour is deemed to either be of an abnormally aggressive or conduct of a seriously socially irresponsible nature. At the time of hospital admission, people often present themselves with challenging behaviour to society and services is a result of external environmental factors.

The Care Quality Commission has expressed concern about the significant use of the Act for disabled people with autism and learning difficulties; they suggested that the lack of community alternatives to in-patient care was one of the reasons. For many disabled people forced down the mental health route being sectioned can often be a route into receiving any state-funded assistance including access to free aftercare provision.

However, in reality once in the psychiatric system disabled people face years of inhumane and undignified care and treatment leading to in trench institutionalisation. After the Winterbourne abuse scandal, the Coalition Government promised change; The Transforming Care programme was established to bring about change by providing more choice and community-based living options with personalised support provided by multi-disciplinary health and care teams for people with autism and learning disabilities. Despite, early promises the Government continues to fail in its targets of reducing the numbers of disabled people with learning difficulties and autism remaining in psychiatric hospital when the only reason they are in these institutions is because of a lack of personal assistance, housing, purposeful activities and social networks that enable all of us to live fulfilled lives in the community.

The Government announced a Mental Health Act Review primary focus is on the disproportionate numbers of people from the BAME communities and the use of community treatment orders (being sectioned in the community) I believe that the Mental Health Act Review must include investigating the abuse of mental health powers to detained disabled people in institutions.

The goal of the Transforming Care Programme can only be achieved if the Care Act is amended so that all disabled people who need care to maintain and promote their wellbeing have a statutory right to receive state-funded support to live in their local communities of their choice. Further, we need to build more houses in the right places where there are thriving communities with plenty of affordable and inclusive mainstream activities on offer. And finally there needs to be a clear date for the closure of all the existing and new institutions once and for all, no returning back to the old Asylums.

We need to act now – we need to have a network of Free Our People Now Advocates who will build relationships with our brothers and sisters stuck in these institutions and want to be free within our communities.


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