In Britain today a growing number of people are separated from their families, often to isolated places hundreds of miles away from home, where they are forced to live indeterminately without hope of release, subject to behavioural regimes which deny and seek to subdue their personality and preferences, where they are drugged to submission and as we now know at great risk of physical and psychological abuse and neglect. Some have died. Many of those that are fortunate to escape do not recover fully from the scarring of their experience, sometimes giving rise to the type of behaviours which were originally used to justify their being stripped of their liberty, creating a vicious cycle.
The human rights abuses to which I refer are not in the name of Britain’s fight against terrorism. This is how 21st Century Britain treats people with learning disabilities and autism who exhibit behaviours which have been labelled ‘challenging.’
Following the 2011 BBC Panorama expose of the torture by staff of those confined to living in one such establishment (the Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol) the government in 2012 committed to ensure that ‘all current placements will be reviewed by 1 June 2013, and everyone inappropriately in hospital will move to community-based support as quickly as possible, and no later than 1 June 2014.’ Yet in the first quarter of 2014 there were more inpatients in such settings than in 2011, a situation described by Care Minister Norman Lamb MP as ‘an abject failure.’
In response to the most recent appalling case to come to light involving a man called Thomas from Bradford, Director of Nursing for Bradford City Care Trust Nicola Lees had the following to say: “We understand that transition into another care setting can be distressing for all involved and our staff are trained to advise on the support families can access.”
In the shady world of anti-terrorism, state sanctioned kidnapping of terror suspects – often to places of interrogation and torture – has been recast as ‘extraordinary rendition.’ In Britain today over 3000 people with learning disabilities and/or autism are the victims of ‘extraordinary transition.’
And it must stop. Without any more excuses. Now.
(for a brilliant but deeply disturbing insight into the world of ‘Assessment and Treatment Units’ read Mark Neary’s series ‘107 Stories from the Assessment and Treatment Unit‘ which he is writing as a contribution to the Justice for LB campaign, which concerns the death of 18 year old Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in the bath while in the ‘care’ of an ATU in July of last year)