MPs to investigate scandal of locked up youngsters with autism

Published by The Mail on Sunday (8th December, 2018)

A parliamentary committee is to hold special sessions to investigate the scandal of youngsters with autism and learning disabilities being locked up like criminals in psychiatric units.

The dramatic move follows Mail on Sunday revelations that hundreds of teenagers and adults are being incarcerated – at a cost to the National Health Service of up to £730,000 a year per person – in appalling conditions, forcibly injected with drug cocktails and stuffed into tiny padded isolation cells.

Harriet Harman, chairman of the influential joint committee on human rights, has invited parents of sectioned teenagers as well as people held against their will to give evidence this week, as part of a wider inquiry into detention.

‘We are shining a spotlight on human rights of individuals who are being shut away and made invisible,’ said Labour veteran Harman. ‘Regulation is not enough. The only way to stop abuses is to guarantee the full rights of these children, adults and their families.’

Among those appearing is the father of Beth, 17, locked up for two years at a private hospital in Northampton. She has spent much of her time in isolation, forcibly stripped by teams of men and ‘fed through a hatch like an animal’.

And a middle-aged man with autism who was held for two months will explain how he ‘felt like I was in prison’ after he entered hospital voluntarily but was then not allowed to leave.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confessed to being ‘deeply shocked’ by this newspaper’s investigations and ordered an investigation by the Care Quality Commission into use of restrictive assessment and treatment units.

There was anger last week from campaigners, however, when it emerged the CQC review will not issue its full report until March 2020, despite Mr Hancock’s call for it to be ‘expedited and completed as quickly as is feasible’.

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