Power to detain people with learning disabilities ‘needs reform’

Section: Policy into PracticeType: News Item Date Published: 18th December 2019

Review notes that some people are detained wrongly.

An independent review of Scotland’s mental health legislation has recommended changes after it recognised that significant reforms are needed to stop people with learning disabilities being unnecessarily detained.

Their newly published final report (this link will take you away from our website) noted that the length of detention for people with learning disabilities only was almost double that for those people without learning disabilities. Meanwhile, people told the review that no-one knows how many autistic people are subject to the Mental Health Act.

The independent review also found that:

  • Treatment is given without consent for much longer than for other people with ‘mental disorders’.
  • Liberty is restricted for longer than for other offenders with ‘mental disorders’.
  • Many of the hospital units for people with learning disability in Scotland are not fully fit for purpose.
  • There are no adjustments for access to primary care, despite much higher levels of living with multiple conditions in the learning disability and autistic population.

Andrew Rome, who chaired the review, said: “We, as a society, have been making decisions based on what we think is best rather than what the person wants. Some of that has been done on the basis that the person can’t tell us. What the UN convention says is that people don’t lack the capacity to tell us: [instead] it’s up to us to find the best way to allow them to.”

The Scottish Government said the report would feed into a wider government review of Scotland’s mental health legislation by John Scott QC, and another review into forensic, or crime-based, mental health policy.

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