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Institutions and people who have learning disabilities

Department of Health review finds integration by children who have learning disabilities and/or autism into the wider community have poor lives.

Department of Health review finds integration by children who have learning disabilities and/or autism into the wider community have poor lives


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Children who have learning disabilities in the UK with challenging behaviours and complex mental health needs are being restrained, secluded, medicated and institutionalised – and there is limited hope of their situations improving. This is the finding of a review undertaken on behalf of the Department of Health.

There are 170 children aged 18 and under who have learning disabilities and/or autism and are receiving inpatient services, and 1,129 in receipt of residential special school services due to their complex behavioural and mental health needs. The services are not poor or neglectful – on the contrary, many are excellent – but they do not rehabilitate children, returning them into the wider community. They keep the children institutionalised.

The fragmented nature of the road the children face through services, and the lack of ownership of them, deprives the children of their right to settled home lives, education and integration into wider community life.

The report describes these children as ‘hidden and separated from society’ and there are calls in it for several improvements to be made. These include human rights being upheld, a review of children in inpatient and residential services, an effective model of care incorporating the Transforming Care agenda and local commissioners to support the needs of children in their areas more.


Lenehan C (2017) These are our Children. Council for Disabled Children, London. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/585376/Lenehan_Review_Report.pdf

Stacey Atkinson is matron/manager for inpatient services for people with learning disabilities and lead nurse, St Mary’s Hospital, Leeds

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