Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Calls for a new law to better protect autistic children and young people

The mother of an autistic girl who died in an inpatient facility earlier this year is campaigning for a new law that would ensure better care and protection for young people with autism and/or mental health problems.

Twenty-year-old Lauren Bridges took her own life two months ago while living in an inpatient facility six hours away from her family home.

Lauren was first admitted to a CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) psychiatric unit voluntarily at the age of 17 after she reached crisis point. But in June last year, she was sent to a hospital in Manchester due to a lack of local beds.

Lauren’s mother, Lindsey Bridges, said moving Lauren to an ‘out of area’ hospital led to a rapid decline in her mental health.

In an Instagram post, Lindsey wrote: “She suffered terribly from separation anxiety and hated being so far away from me. It broke her and our little family.”

Bettering professional understanding of how autism presents in girls

Now, Lindsey is calling for the implementation of ‘Lolly’s Law’, which she hopes would “significantly enhance the lives of our most vulnerable children, young adults and their families.”

The law would see all psychiatric professionals retrain, in order to better understand how autism presents in girls. Lindsey says currently, autistic girls and women are often misdiagnosed, leaving them “massively misunderstood” and increasing their chances of reaching crisis point and being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

Lindsey would also like to see it made illegal for autistic children and adults to be detained under the Mental Health Act or sent to hospitals far away from home.

In addition to these measures, the law calls for:

  • Specialist suicide prevention and self-harm teams for vulnerable young people
  • Therapeutic activities and therapy to be provided for all inpatients detained under the MHA on a daily basis
  • All en-suite doors within any psychiatric setting to be replaced with anti-ligature doors
  • Suitable care and treatment packages in the community to be readily available for the most vulnerable
  • No child or adult to be left in an unsuitable hospital setting that is detrimental to their wellbeing
  • Adequate financial support for funeral expenses for any inpatient that passes away whilst detained under the MHA.

Protecting the most vulnerable

Lindsey hopes these proposals will help those who are currently detained under the MHA and those who are at risk of hospitalisation.

She said: “Lauren was left alone, far from home, with no therapy and no therapeutic activities, in an environment that was causing more harm than good.

“I believe if my proposals were already in place, my daughter would still be alive.”

To read more about ‘Lolly’s Law’, click here.

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