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Special Educational Needs
Friday 28 May 2021

10 year anniversary of the Winterbourne View scandal

Next week marks ten years since a BBC Panorama investigation revealed shocking abuse of adults with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View hospital in Gloucestershire.   

In response to the scandal, the Government committed to moving all people with autism and learning disabilities inappropriately placed in hospital to community-based support by June 2014. However, this deadline was missed and today many autistic people and people with learning disabilities remain in long term hospital care.  

Latest figures from April 2021 reveal that 2,040 people with autism and learning disabilities are in hospital. Of these, 59% of patients have been in hospital for over two years. The number of under 18s in hospital has almost doubled since 2015 from 110 to 215.   

Meanwhile exclusions of autistic pupils from schools have continued to increase rapidly in the last decade - more than doubling since 2012. Latest figures show that over 5700 pupils were excluded in one year.  

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:   

“A decade on from the Winterbourne View hospital scandal, too many autistic young people remain shut away and excluded from their communities.   

“This often begins in school, where autistic young people face high levels of exclusion, which results in isolation and damage to mental health.   

“Shockingly we also know the number of young people aged under 18 in secure hospital units has doubled since 2015 with these young people often placed miles away from their families and communities.   

“This simply is not good enough and with early support it is preventable. We need better investment in early community-based support in education, health and social care so that autistic young people can live rewarding and fulfilling lives as part of their communities. We must work to reduce unlawful school exclusions and we also need to continue to listen to autistic young people and their families to better understand their needs and develop solutions with them to enhance their quality of life."