More people locked up in modern day asylums during lockdown: Mencap says Government must not use COVID-19 as excuse to let human rights scandal continue


encap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation have responded to latest NHS Digital figures which show an increasing number of people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in these modern-day asylums, where they are at even greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mencap have urged Government “not to use coronavirus crisis as an excuse to let this domestic human rights scandal continue”.

• At least 2,060 people with a learning disability and/or autism still locked away in inpatient units as charities warn they are at even greater risk during coronavirus crisis – up from 2,045 last month

• People with a learning disability and/or autism continue to be locked away during lockdown – 80 admissions in May 2020

• 200 children with a learning disability and/or autism are still locked away in inpatient units – up from 190 last month

Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “We have long been warning that lockdown must not mean more people being locked up. Yet these figures show an increasing number of people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in these modern-day asylums, where they are at risk of abuse and neglect. With family contact cut and CQC inspections reduced during lockdown, many families are rightly terrified about what might be happening to their loved ones behind closed doors. “The steady stream of admissions and continued delayed discharge shows the desperate need for appropriate

social care support in the community – the only proper alternative to inpatient units. While the increased costs of delivering social care alongside emergency funding not always reaching frontline services means that this gap is only likely to become greater as more people are left to reach crisis point because they cannot get help at home. “People with a learning disability and/or autism have a right to live in homes not hospitals. The Government must not use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to let this domestic human rights scandal continue. Now more than ever, we need a robust cross-government strategy and investment in a reformed social care system to stop inappropriate admissions in the first place and get people out of inpatient units and back into the community.”

• Delayed discharges continue with at least 120 people still stuck in hospital when they are ready for discharge in May 2020

• The average total length of stay in inpatient units is 5.7 years.

• 3,265 recorded instances of restrictive interventions (like physical, prone, mechanical and chemical restraint) being used in one month, of which 570 were against children. This is likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg” as only data for 3 out of 14 private/independent providers and 27 out of 55 NHS providers.

Vivien Cooper OBE, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: “The data published shows that there is a concerning increase in the number of children and adults in inpatients units. People with learning disabilities in inpatient units are at high risk of abuse and the Joint Committee on Human Rights report published last week concluded that this risk is even greater in the current COVID crisis. The report cites increased risks of violations to a number of human rights, including the right to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, liberty and security, respect for family life and non-discrimination. “Since Winterbourne View in 2011, the Government, NHSE and CQC have all made commitments time

and time again to Transform Care, yet, now when the stakes are higher than ever, they continue to fail to do so and far too many people remain in inpatient units at risk of abuse. “Health, education, and social care need to work together now to address the issues and protect the

rights of children and adults with learning disabilities. We hear a lot about the “new normal”- this provides an opportunity to ensure that children, adults and their families get the right support in the right place at the right time. This must happen now, with robust delivery plans across Government Departments and clear lines of accountability to ensure the right support is available at the right time in the community.”

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email

For more information about the CBF’s work on restraint and seclusion visit:

16 Ability Needs Magazine

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