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Blog - Crippen

Crippen revisits the plight of learning disabled people still being held in secure units.


Thousands of learning disabled people and those with Autism in England are still being held in secure units, usually hundreds of miles from their families and facing increasing use of restraint and isolation.

cartoon about restraining residents


Writing in The Guardian, journalist Saba Salman reports that parents who are fighting to visit their loved ones say that the pandemic is making things much worse, with more restraint, seclusion and segregation being used to deal with their children’s increasing anxiety and resulting behavioral issues.

After a year in secure care 105 miles from home, Jack Cavanagh, 17, who has autism, a learning disability and epilepsy, desperately misses his family. They used to see him every weekend, but with Covid restrictions have been unable to visit. As a result, they say, Jack has become more anxious and isolated.

Also, the lack of affection makes Jack, who also has ADHD, become aggressive. This has led to staff increasingly restraining him, with up to seven adults holding him down for 10 minutes at a time.

Apart from the odd supervised walk in the grounds, Jack has been locked in a single bedroom, bathroom and living area. He also started self-harming and became selectively mute after his parents weren’t able to visit for more than 15 weeks due to measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. They later discovered that they could have visited him after taking legal advice.

Despite repeated government promises to shut down institutions for learning disabled and autistic people with complex needs in the wake of the 2011 Winterbourne View scandal, inpatient units alone are still home to over two thousand learning disabled or autistic adults and children in England.

You can read Saba’s full article in The Guardian and more about this issue by clicking here.

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