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

Swansea family lose fight to keep autistic daughter in Wales

ABM logoA woman from Swansea with autism is to be moved to a unit in Brighton after a judge upheld the decision of the local health board.

The decision means that 20-year-old Claire Dyer will have to move from the unit in Swansea she has lived in since April 2012. Her family had obtained an injunction to block the move, but a judge overruled this at a hearing on August 1.

The judge heard that Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) wanted to move Claire to the unit in Brighton – about 230 miles away – because the staff in the Swansea unit could not cope with her “extremely challenging” behaviour. The Brighton unit was chosen as there was no suitable alternative in Wales.

Claire’s mother, Catherine Dyer, said that the family was “heart-broken” by the decision and that it would “tear our family apart”, the BBC reported.

While she accepted her daughter needs specialist care currently, Catherine felt Brighton is too far away and the move will make Claire’s behaviour worse.

“It is clear that she needs specialist support and while we accept that her current hospital is only a temporary solution, the fact that there is no place in the whole of Wales is beyond belief,” Catherine said.

“We are totally against Claire being sent hundreds of miles away to Brighton, not just because of how far away it is from her family, but also because we do not believe that a medium secure hospital is suitable to meet her needs.”

Lack of local provision

In a statement, ABMU said that while it could not comment specifically on this case the board makes “every effort to arrange temporary placements as close as possible to the patient’s home so their family is near. Unfortunately this is not always possible because the specialist facilities needed are not available locally.”

The statement added that patients with very complex individual conditions may need a specialist assessment, which for safety reasons often needs to be carried out in a secure environment.

“When an assessment is needed we always begin by contacting the specialist services closest to the patient’s home. Unfortunately, on some occasions we are unable to find a service in Wales able to provide the highly specialist assessment, care and security needed,” the statement added.

“Should this happen, we then approach specialist services in England. We are very much aware of the distance this can place between a patient and their family.

“However, the assessment is critical and the placement is seen as temporary. We then plan for the patient to return closer to home as soon as possible.”

End long-term placements

The decision has met with strong criticism from the charity sector. Wayne Crocker, director of Mencap Cymru, said the charity was “appalled” at the decision. “After all we have learnt from the scandal of abuse uncovered at Winterbourne View three years ago, it is clear that vulnerable people like Claire should not be forced to move hundreds of miles from their families, and should receive the care and support they need in their community,” he added.

“We want to see an end to the unacceptable culture of long-term placements in inpatient units, often hundreds of miles away from their homes, where people are at significant risk of abuse and neglect. This can cause huge distress, and there is no doubt that this is the case for Claire and her family.

“Governments – whether in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland – must be committed to providing quality support and services for people like Claire in their local community.”

Claire’s family have started a Change.org petition – Keep Claire, who has autism and challenging behaviour, in Wales to be close to us, her family: http://goo.gl/JUrf1q

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