End the abuse of autistic people & people with a learning disability in inpatient units

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My name is Alexis Quinn and I am autistic. 

In 2012 I was detained under the mental health act for almost three and a half years. I spent time in various psychiatric hospitals and an Assessment and Treatment Unit. The reason I was there was because I am autistic and other people, who were not experts in autism, decided I should not be allowed to leave. Whilst there I was drugged, restrained, secluded, put in long term segregation. I was mistreated.

The events witnessed in the recent Panorama documentary ‘Hospital Abuse Scandal’ and which I detail in my book, Unbroken, showed vulnerable adults who are autistic or have a learning disability being abused and mistreated. These events were truly shocking but because of my experiences, I did not find them surprising.  That’s why I’m working with the National Autistic Society to try and bring about change.

To watch the denial of vulnerable people’s human rights should be regarded as a national scandal but all the more so considering the Government has failed to stop the use of inpatient units such as Whorlton Hall, through its recently-ended Transforming Care programme.  Over 2,000 children and adults remain locked up despite Government promises to end their use.

This is not a question of money, or funding – millions of pounds are spent on keeping vulnerable children and adults locked up hundreds of miles from their homes. This is about where the money is spent and what kind of service it is spent on. Autism and learning disabilities are not a mental health condition.

My time in inpatient care cost the state approximately £2.5 million. In reality I could have been easily treated closer to or even in my home and with the support of my family and friends which would have cost a fraction of this amount. The right use of the money spent on locking up autistic people and people with a learning disability is on community services, where people can be in their own homes or closer to their families, not in mental health inpatient units.  Instead I was locked up, shut off from my family, leaving my baby daughter with no mother for months.  I needed help – I asked for help – and instead I got this.

The time has come for reviews and investigations to end. No more empty promises. No more warm words. 

We need action from the Government to stop the use of inpatient units and to safeguard the human rights of vulnerable adults like me, and like Clare, Alex and Paul who we saw in the documentary, who are autistic or have a learning disability. 

I call upon the Government to end the abuse and mistreatment of autistic people and people with a learning disability in inpatient units by doing to the following:

  • Declare that autistic people and people with a learning disability are #HumanToo and must have their human rights safeguarded
  • Immediately commit to make money available to set up the right community services for autistic people and people with a learning disability - and that this is ring-fenced
  • Change the wording of the definition of ‘mental disorder’ in the Mental Health Act, which currently includes autism and learning disability – whilst legally safeguarding ‘at risk’ individuals access to Care & Treatment Reviews
  • Establish accountability right across Government to make sure this happens

For information and support on this issue you can visit the National Autistic Society website.