Data obtained by BBC Scotland has uncovered that people with learning disabilities and autism are being forced to live far from their families, despite a pledge made by the Scottish Government made five years ago stating the practice would be ended.

The study was carried out by Dr Anne MacDonald, the head of complex needs for the Richmond Fellowship Scotland, who has been seconded by the Scottish Government to carry out an assessment of the numbers of people who have been placed into hospital units, and also those who are forced to stay a long way from their family.

Per the BBC’s report, the Scottish Government said in 2013 that: “by 2018 people with learning disabilities and autism and complex care needs who are currently in facilities outwith Scotland should be supported to live nearer their family in Scotland,” however their investigation showed there are 79 Scottish people who have been placed into care homes and hospitals in England and Wales, far from their families.

Dr MacDonald found that over 400 people had been placed in care homes and hospital outwith their local community, and that 109 of the people she investigated should be brought closer to home as a matter of priority.

The study also showed that restraints were used on the 109 people with autism and learning disabilities who she felt needed to be brought closer to their families, despite evidence existing to show that chemical restraint is ineffective and physical restraint may result in long-term damage to the patient. Her study found that 21% were the subject of physical restraint, 11% were subjected to seclusion, and 44% were administered sedatives.

In a statement to the BBC, Clare Haughey, the minister for mental health, said: “We are committed to considering how best to take forward work based on Dr MacDonald’s findings, including discussing this with Health and Social Care Partnerships in relation to the commissioning of local services, developing community services, transition planning and specialist skills.”

Image: Flickr/NASA

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