16 Oct The care system is broken
The care system is broken, this had led to hundreds of hospital admissions for autistic people that could have been avoided. Over 60% of people within inpatient assessment and treatment provisions are autistic people.
How many more have been traumatised and suffered horrific or inhumane treatment, or have lost their lives? We simply cannot stand back and let this happen again. We clearly have not learnt our lesson after Winterbourne View, Mendip House and Horton Hall as autistic people are still suffering as a result of being placed in inappropriate long stay hospitals. 10 years ago, the Autism Act 2009, a ground-breaking piece of legislation, along with the Care Act 2014 were put in place to protect the rights of autistic people, so why is the law and the rights of autistic people being ignored?
Even before long stay hospitals autistic people and those with complex needs are forced into services that cannot meet their needs as they do not have the autism specific skills, specialism and experience to do so. These placements are made on the basis of finance, place cheap and hope for the best, this is a recipe for failure and repeated placement breakdowns for autistic people. Many autistic people have told us that continual placement breakdown had a hugely negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing, they feel they have continually failed.
Without out an autism specific assessment how can Social Workers identify the needs of a person with autism?
The right community support for autistic people starts with a care needs assessment, the assessment tools currently used are more akin to assessing the needs of the elderly. The assessors fail to currently have the skills, knowledge and experience as determined to be essential in the Autism Act 2009 and the Care Act 2014 to ensure individuals can be placed within community-based specialist services that can meet their needs. 77% of local authorities told us the tool they were using is not autism specific. Without out an autism specific assessment how can Social Workers identify the needs of a person with autism?
In practise those with autism and a learning disability are often referred to learning disability statutory services who lack training and expertise within autism when actually the individuals primary need is around their autism and not their learning disability. Those who have autism but not a learning disability fair even worse as both health and social care both try to devoid themselves of responsibly and these individuals are subject to statutory wrangling and in-fighting rather than a cohesive approach resulting in a comprehensive assessment and support that will assist them to live within their local community.
We need to ensure that autistic specific assessments are carried out
There are a number of providers across the UK that have worked tirelessly to support and repatriate autistic individuals back into their communities from long stay hospitals, with great success. Adult Social Care and the Health Authority need to work together and invest in these local services to ensure more individuals who are in long-stay hospitals are bought home to their local communities to be with family and friends. There needs to be a commitment by Commissioners to work together with these local providers to prevent crisis and hospital admissions.
We need to ensure that autistic specific assessments are carried out to identify the needs and support for these individuals, after all, these individuals are protected under the Autism Act 2009 and Care Act 2014. These assessments must be carried out by individuals who have the skills, knowledge and experience to carry out these assessments, 24% of local authorities told us they only provide 1 day of training. It can be proven that when an autism specific approach is put in place based on a comprehensive autism specific assessment, individuals can have their needs met within their community in a specialist autism provision reducing the need for hospital admission.
8 years ago, after we all witnessed the terrible abuse at Winterbourne View, we were promised change to prevent this happening again. The recent Horton Hall Panorama expose clearly shows that abuse is still happening. We know the system can be fixed but there needs to be a willingness and a commitment from Government and local authorities to invest in and support local providers so more local services are commissioned to ensure autistic individuals can live rewarding and fulfilling lives in their communities.
We cannot stand back and wait for the next scandal.