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Tuesday 10 May 2022

Our response to the Queen's Speech

The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech today that it will introduce new mental health laws that will make it harder to detain autistic people and people with a learning disability in hospital.

These will be the first major reforms to the Mental Health Act in four decades, designed to reduce the number of people being detained under current laws in England and Wales.

The laws will see an end to a situation in which autistic people can be detained under the act even if the patient does not have any mental health conditions. Whereas current laws mean that treatment can be imposed on patients against their wishes, the draft bill will also allow patients to voice a preference or refuse a specific treatment where a suitable alternative is available. 

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

“It’s a national scandal that autistic people and people with a learning disability remain locked in hospitals inappropriately and shut away from their families and communities.

“Autism is not a mental health condition, and it is high time that the law reflects this. Sadly, many autistic young people also experience mental health issues due to lack of understanding of their needs.

“While we welcome the Government’s announcement that it will seek to remove autism and learning disabilities as mental health disorders, these reforms are long overdue. 
“Latest figures show that 2,005 autistic people and people with a learning disability are currently in inpatient units, including 195 children, with 57% having a total length of stay of over two years.

“The Government must act swiftly to put an end to this shocking situation, however meaningful change will only come if these reforms are accompanied by investment in early community-based support in education, health and social care. The government’s SEND Review needs to do more to ensure autistic young people get the right support from their earliest years, so they can be themselves and achieve their ambitions.”