Human Rights and the Government’s response to COVID-19: The detention of young people who are autistic and/or have learning disabilities Contents


Last year, the Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report on the detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) and other mental health hospitals which concluded that young people’s human rights are being abused; they are detained unlawfully contrary to their right to liberty, subjected to solitary confinement, more prone to self-harm and abuse and deprived of the right to family life.

Now that institutions are closed to the outside world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the risk of human rights abuses are even greater. Unlawful blanket bans on visits, the suspension of routine inspections, the increased use of restraint and solitary confinement, and the vulnerability of those in detention to infection with Covid-19 (due to underlying health conditions and the infeasibility of social distancing) mean that the situation is now a severe crisis.

Claims of unprecedented progress and reports of new taskforces and strategies from those overseeing the detention system sound encouraging but stand in stark contrast to the evidence we heard from mothers of young people who are detained within it during the crisis.

This report makes a series of recommendations which must be urgently acted on in order to put a stop to these human rights abuses. These include:

Published: 12 June 2020