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Legal threat on failure to move people with learning disabilities into the community

Equality and Human Rights Commission complains of missed NHS targets on moving patients with learning disabilities and autism to community-based settings

Equality and Human Rights Commission complains of missed NHS targets on moving patients with learning disabilities and autism to community-based settings

Picture shows a woman hunched over her knees, looking sad. A human group complains of missed NHS targets on moving patients with learning disabilities and autism to community-based settings.
Picture: iStock

A human rights body is threatening the government with legal action over what it calls a repeated failure to provide appropriate accommodation to people with learning difficulties and autism.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken the first step towards mounting a legal challenge against health and social care secretary Matt Hancock over the ‘inappropriate inpatient care’ of more than 2,000 people in England.

It has sent a pre-action letter – a letter sent before starting legal action – to Mr Hancock arguing that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

Commission chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: ‘We cannot afford to risk further abuse being inflicted on even a single person more at the distressing and horrific levels we have seen. We need the DHSC to act now.’

Committed to protecting the rights of people with a learning disability of autism

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to protecting the rights of everyone with a learning disability or autism and are determined to continue reducing the number of people with these conditions in mental health hospitals.’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the DHSC had failed to meet NHS targets to move patients to community-based settings and to reduce reliance on inpatient care of people with learning disabilities and autism.

An inquiry into the long-term detention of young people with learning disabilities or autism is ongoing.

A report from parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights in November said the human rights of many young people were being breached in mental health hospitals and decried the ‘horrific’ detention of young people with autism or learning disabilities.

Days later, Mr Hancock said 2,250 hospital patients with learning disabilities and autism would have their care reviewed and be provided with a discharge date or a plan to move them closer to one.

A DHSC spokesperson said it had received the letter from the commission and would respond in due course.


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