Do we just forget about the other half?

To read on Dimensions website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

Assessment and Treatment Units don’t work. Fact. Here’s my solution.


It is sobering, this Christmas, that new data* has revealed half of ATU “inmates” in December 2015 were already in that institution when analysis began in 2013.

So-called Assessment and Treatment Units are designed to offer a short term crisis intervention, allowing a swift return home. This data proves that they don’t. They incarcerate people for the long term.

Social care professionals have for years been saying that ATUs are not an appropriate solution to a crisis. It’s an obvious vicious circle.

Remove someone from their home for treatment (a quarter of “inmates” were sent more than 100km away from home, family and friends) into an unfamiliar, sterile environment that regularly uses restraint and seclusion to manage behaviour. And, as soon as an inmate’s behaviour gets worse, apply more of the same techniques. It’s a wonder anyone manages to leave.

Neither local nor national government is listening. Local authorities are failing to create the community based services that will largely prevent these issues in the first place, and then treat individuals properly in the event of a crisis.

The government’s recent “Homes not Hospitals” report makes yet another promise to get half of the inmates released from ATUs.

Half. Even supposing they deliver on this latest in a long line of promises, do we just forget about the other half?

The 1,500 people whose lives are being wrecked daily. Whose families are powerless to get them out. Who would almost invariably be able to thrive in their local community with the right support.

There is a place for assessing and treating people who are undergoing a crisis. It is in their community, surrounded by their loved ones and those that know them. It is not incarceration in an alien institution.

This is not simply a protest. Dimensions proposes a comprehensive solution.

In this position statement we cover challenging behaviour and mental health, community based support and what local and national government must to do give people with learning disabilities and autism their right to independence and a home.

We are working with local authorities across England to help people with learning disabilities find houses close to their families and friends and in communities they choose.


*Data from the Learning Disability Census Report – England, 30th of September 2015 (HSCIC)

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