Autistic people and those with learning difficulties ‘shouldn’t be sent to secure units’

NHS figures show at least 2,000 patients are held in England, including 215 under-18s. And the inquiry found the average stay was six years.

The report comes ten years after the Winterbourne View scandal when a BBC Panorama investigation uncovered serious abuse at a private facility near Bristol. Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt said: “It is a matter of national shame that 10 years on from Winterbourne View, still far too many autistic people and individuals with learning disabilities are detained in secure units.”

He blamed the “totally inadequate level of community provision” for the “shocking” average detention.

Long-term admissions, he said, “should now be banned with alternative community provision set up in their place”.

Mr Hunt also called for immediate action “on the use of restrictive practices by staff – we’ve heard harrowing descriptions of the use of physical restraint, long-term segregation and seclusion in facilities”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our priority is to ensure autistic people and people with learning disabilities are supported to live well in their communities.

“We have outlined proposals to limit the scope for people with autism and learning disabilities who do not have a mental health condition to be detained.”

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