‘Homes not Hospitals’ campaign launched for autistic people and people with disabilities

A new campaign argues autistic people and people with learning disabilities should not be in hospital units but supported to live independent and fulfilling lives.

13/05/21

‘Homes not Hospitals’ campaign launched for autistic people and people with disabilities

Launching the ‘Homes not Hospitals’ campaign, BASW England says too many people with learning disabilities and autistic adults are being failed by the housing and care system.

Detained in hospital Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) or in restrictive care arrangements and seclusion units, often for years, these citizens are not being given the right housing, care and support to enable them to live independent and fulfilled lives, the organisation representing social workers in England says.

The aim of the campaign is to promote preventative approaches in terms of commissioning, human rights-based practice, the role of social work and legal literacy to reduce the risk of situations from reaching the point of hospital admission.

Maris Stratulis, BASW England National Director, said the timing of the launch was significant with the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has revealed many underlying health and social inequalities, including through the tragic excess deaths of people with learning disabilities and the unknown number of autistic people that have lost their lives.”

A set of resources, webinars, statements and guidance have been developed to promote the campaign, which social workers can use in practice and to promote the cause.

“These resources developed collaboratively with people and families and key partners from across the sector have been designed to support best practice with commissioning and to enable social workers to uphold people’s human rights,” Stratulis said, adding: “The aim is to take a person-centred approach and to call for a national review of existing commissioning arrangements and accountability with the appointment of a lead commissioner.”

Working collaboratively with people with lived experience and organisations from across the social work sector, the campaign hopes to influence policy and practice reform with a human rights-focus.

Lead coordinator for the campaign Liz Howard said ‘Homes not Hospitals’ was a “direct response” to the call from members to do something in response to the human rights abuses of people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people.

“We are fast approaching ten years since the panorama expose at Winterbourne View and the situation in terms of restraint, segregation and seclusion remains the same for far too many people.

“As social workers our practice is underpinned by social justice, safeguarding and upholding people’s Human Rights, and ensuring people’s voices are heard. That is what the Homes not Hospitals campaign is all about.”

The problem, BASW England says, is that too many people with learning disabilities and autistic adults are admitted to secure settings because of the lack of the right housing and care and there are issues with funding and huge delays to discharge into adequate support and homes.

They say preventative, community-based services should be in place to avoid this from happening. The in-patient hospital environment is not therapeutic and is actively damaging, reinforcing justification for restraint and ongoing detention.

BASW England says it is a “false economy” not to have the right homes with the right support in place to help people live the dignified and happy lives that they deserve.

The Government have been aware of the issue for some time and have made various promises to get the number of inpatients down, yet targets have been missed.

The latest figures, from March 2021, reveal that there are at least 2,050 people with a learning disability and/or autism in NHS-funded learning disability inpatient beds, exceeding by more than 20% the Government target set 10 years ago of 1,700 by 2019.

Under 18s with a learning disability and/or autism in inpatient units continues to grow, too. The figure has nearly doubled from 110 children in 2015, to 210 as of March 2021.

Andrea Attree describes her struggle trying to get support for her daughter Danielle, who is still in the system.

“She was going through a crisis that could easily have been supported in the community. There are so many parents who don’t know what to do, they are frightened,” Andrea said. “It is a really hard fight, it takes up your whole life, every time you complain there is an obstacle. It just wears people down.”

“We need to stop thinking we need more hospitals. We wouldn’t need these places that cost millions of pounds to build and run if we had the community services. If we don’t break that cycle, we are just investing in a broken model.”

Stephen Chandler, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said enormous time, effort and expertise had been invested in the production of the resources.

“We will be recommending to ADASS Members that they take careful consideration of the content.”

View the resources as part of the ‘Homes not Hospitals’ campaign: https://www.basw.co.uk/homes-not-hospitals

Liz Howard, is leading the campaign and can be contacted liz.howard@basw.co.uk if you would like to get involved.

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