Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes new report on the detention of young people with Learning Difficulties

Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes stark report on the detention of young people who are autistic and/or have learning difficulties during the Covid-19 crisis


In a report published today, Friday 12 June 2020, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) looks again at the lack of human rights afforded young people who are autistic and/or have learning difficulties in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) and other mental health hospitals.

The fifth report finds that during the Covid-19 crisis the risk to human rights abuses is even greater as institutions close themselves off to the outside world as a result of the pandemic.

Despite claims of unprecedented progress and reports of new task forces and strategies from the government, the JCHR hears stark contrasting evidence from the mothers of young people detained. The impact on visit restrictions to young people during the pandemic has been shocking, with evidence given of a young person attempting to take their own life within days of lockdown and another at severe risk from anxiety driven behaviour to self-harm. The impact on the parents themselves has been heartbreaking, leaving them isolated and desperate.

The report focuses on five key areas:

  • Visits and the right to family life
  • Use of restraint and solitary confinement
  • Inspections
  • Inappropriate detention and failure to discharge
  • Data on Covid-19 infections and deaths

The report makes conclusions and recommendations on each area including NHS England writing to all hospitals (including private ones) stating that they must allow families to visit their loved ones, that restraint must only be used as a last resort and that now, more than ever, rapidly progressing the discharge of young people to safe homes in the community must be a top priority. The JCHR recommends urgent action on each area to put a stop to these human rights abuses.

The enquiry focuses on the situation in England as health and social care is devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of Council for Disabled Children, said:

“We hear again in this report the challenges and inhumanities for young people in the health system. A system which despite the best intents regularly undermines their basic human rights. The report provides yet another call to action, this time we have to be able to see it through.”

The report with can be found here: