• Inappropriate long-term inpatient detention for autistic adults

    The BBC reported on November 24th, the news story of Tony Hickmott, a 44-year-old man with learning disabilities and autism who has been detained in a hospital over 100 miles away from his parents for over 20 years.

    Her Honour Judge Hilder (Senior Judge of the Court of Protection) described “egregious” delays and “glacial” progress in finding Tony the right care package which would enable him to live in the community. She has now ordered the local authorities involved in his care to work together to move him back to Brighton by May, 2022.

    But this is not a lone case; it is thought that over 100 adults with learning disability or autism have been in long-term care units for over 20 years. And, a decade since the Winterbourne View abuses were exposed, over 2,000 adults are still staying in inpatient units.

    Whilst inpatient settings might be a short-term solution for someone in crises, they are inappropriate places for long-term stays. Yet, according to Mencap findings, the average length of stay for someone with a learning disability or autism is a shocking 5.4 years.

    Autism specialist care provider Autism at Kingwood is responding to this. With a reputation for supporting autistic adults in complex and challenging needs, and when other service providers have failed, the charity is working with local authorities to provide bespoke support packages for autistic adults who have been incarcerated for too long. The charity supports people out of inpatient settings and into a home with person-centred support, where they can rebuild their lives – and start to make decisions about the lives they want to lead.

    Therefore, it was so frustrating for us to hear the local authority responsible for Tony state that services could not be found for him. There are highly skilled providers like Kingwood who can provide the services needed –  if social care for people in this situation is truly prioritised and funded as it should be.

    Autism at Kingwood has a dynamic team in place to deliver this expert work and a waiting list of people who urgently need their support. However, like all social care providers across the country, the charity is facing a challenges in the recruitment and retention of staff. Social care providers are commissioned by local authorities to deliver support, but the local authorities (themselves are underfunded by central government) do not pay providers enough. This means social care providers are unable to pay their frontline staff what they deserve.

    Social care workers are highly skilled; Autism at Kingwood’s support workers are trained to a very high standard in autism and adult social care. Staff often work with unpredictable behaviours, administer medication, deliver personal care and be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable person they are supporting.

    In 202/21, Autism at Kingwood ran the #BetterPay4SocialCare campaign, with over 20 other social care organisations participating, calling on Government in ensure social care workers receive a minimum of the Real Living Wage (currently £9.50 p/hour outside London). They delivered a petition to the Treasury ahead of the budget, and we are pleased to see the national living wage increase to £9.50 p/hour from next April. However, urge local authorities to provide adequate funding, so that our fantastic frontline talent stays with us and helps us develop our  vital work for autistic people in crises situations.

    Philippa Stannard

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