A campaign has been launched by the family members of people with learning disabilities who are resident in assessment and treatment units (ATUs) with no date set for their move back into the community.
The 7 Days of Action Campaign has launched a blog that each day for the 7 days will tell a different story of someone who has experienced life in an ATU.
People with learning disabilities resident in ATUs have committed no crime, or rarely been diagnosed with a mental health condition but can remain in units for years at a time.
There are currently about 3,000 people in ATUs, of which 17% have been resident there for more than 5 years – 43% have been resident for between 1 and 5 years. In addition, 43% of people are more than 50 kilometres from their homes and 72% are being prescribed anti-psychotic medication as a means of containing them, according to the Learning Disability Census 2015. The average cost of being kept in an ATU is £3,500 per week.
Also, the majority of those in ATUs do not have a date set for when they will be transferred back to their community.
Since the Winterbourne View scandal of 2011, where widespread abuse of residents was revealed in a BBC Panorama programme, there have been various initiatives and strategies launched with the aim of reducing the number of people with learning disabilities resident in ATUs, but so far all have failed and numbers have remained broadly the same for the past 5 years. The latest strategy, Homes Not Hospitals, was launched in October 2015.
The 7 Days of Action Campaign’s first blog tells Eden Norris’ story. Eden, 24, has a moderate learning disability and autism and has been in ATUs for the past 7 years – way beyond the average time spent in ATUs.
In those 7 years, Eden has been in 2 units. The first was a medium secure forensic unit – although he had not committed a crime. Eden was overmedicated and secluded for long periods of time. He put on 16 stone in weight while he was there. For most of his years in this ATU, Eden was kept all day in a single room. The room had no toilet facilities, so inevitably Eden repeatedly soiled himself. He was fed through a hatch in the door. He very seldom had face-to-face, one-to-one contact with the staff.
Eden was moved to a different unit in January 2015. This unit is in a remote location so he rarely gets to go out and do activities he enjoys, such as swimming. He was initially allocated a shack in woods as his sleeping quarters. Eden’s mum, is worried about him as his medication has been increased and elements of challenging behaviour have emerged, after years without an incident.
Eden’s mum is trying to arrange a care package in the community near to where she lives, but is being repeatedly frustrated by the local authority. As a result, Eden is entering his 8th year in an ATU.
You can find the full blog and find out more about the campaign here: https://theatuscandal.wordpress.com/ Also, follow the hashtag #7daysofaction on Twitter.