Young adults with learning difficulties being kept in detention are “highly vulnerable” to abuse during the Coronavirus pandemic, a group of MPs and peers have warned.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has urged NHS England to allow the families of young people with autism or learning difficulties to visit their loved ones during the crisis amid fears their human rights are being abused.

It comes after parents of children in mental health hospitals or Assessment and Treatment Units told the group they faced blanket bans on visits, while routine inspections have been suspended due to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the group warned a “discrepancy” in data gathering had made it difficult to gauge how many young people were being subjected to restraints or placed into solitary confinement for long periods.

The report comes after 14 independent mental health or learning disability hospitals were placed into special measures by the Care Quality Commission in the past year.

The Chair of the Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said:

“Even in normal circumstances there is not sufficient protection against abuse of young people with autism and/or who have learning disabilities are at risk of abuse.  But the risk is even greater under lockdown with parental visits banned in some institutions and without routine inspections.

The JCHR is telling the government that protecting these young people is urgent and makes tough recommendations including ensuring parental visits are permitted discharging as many of the young people as possible into the community and a telephone hotline for reporting abuse. There’s always a danger to vulnerable people in closed institutions. The COVID-19 lockdown increases that danger and the government must recognise it and take action”

The full report can be found here

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