A Government report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights shows major failings in the human rights of autistic people and those with learning disabilities in mental health hospitals.

The report released today: The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism talks about the 'horrific reality' of conditions and treatment under which many young people with learning disabilities and autism are detained in mental health hospitals. Many stay in these hospitals for years, and the number of people being treated is increasing. 

The Committee reported these key findings:

  • It has “no confidence that the target to reduce the numbers of people with learning disabilities and/or autism in mental health hospitals, set out in the NHS Long Term plan, will be met”. The biggest barrier to progress is a lack of political focus and accountability to drive change.
  • The detention of those with learning disabilities and/or autism is often inappropriate. It causes suffering and does long term damage.
  • The right housing, social care and health services needed to prevent people being detained inappropriately are simply not being commissioned at local level.
  • Too often families of young people, who may be desperately trying advocate on behalf of their children are considered to be the problem, when they can and should to be the solution.

Our Director of Science commented on the findings in the report:

"Today's report is a damning reflection of how our health service and social care fails to support the basic rights of many autistic people and those with learning disabilities. We need urgent action today. We also need to build research into care provision, so that we can continually learn and improve services."

Dr James Cusack, Director of Science at Autistica


Autistic people and their families deserve better. We will continue to urgently campaign for better treatment and more investment into services and research.

For information about what to do if an autistic family member is at risk or has been admitted to a mental health hospital, visit the National Autistic Society's  page on autism and mental health or contact their advice service.