Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Health Secretary faces legal challenge for failing patients with learning disabilities and autism
Today we have launched a legal challenge against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care over the repeated failure to move people with learning disabilities and autism into appropriate accommodation.
We have longstanding concerns about the rights of more than 2,000 people with learning disabilities and autism being detained in secure hospitals, often far away from home and for many years.
These concerns increased significantly following the BBC’s exposure of the shocking violation of patients’ human rights at Whorlton Hall, where patients suffered horrific physical and psychological abuse.
We have sent a pre-action letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, arguing that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has breached the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) for failing to meet the targets set in the Transforming Care program and Building the Right Support program.
These targets included moving patients from inappropriate inpatient care to community-based settings, and reducing the reliance on inpatient care for people with learning disabilities and autism.
Following discussions with the DHSC and NHS England, we are also not satisfied that new deadlines set in the NHS Long Term Plan and Planning Guidance will be met.
This suggests a systemic failure to protect the right to a private and family life, and right to live free from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“We cannot afford to miss more deadlines. We cannot afford any more Winterbourne Views or Whorlton Halls. We cannot afford to risk further abuse being inflicted on even a single more person at the distressing and horrific levels we have seen. We need the DHSC to act now.
“These are people who deserve our support and compassion, not abuse and brutality. Inhumane and degrading treatment in place of adequate healthcare cannot be the hallmark of our society. One scandal should have been one too many.”
The DHSC has 14 days to respond to our pre-action letter. Alternatively, we have offered to suspend the legal process for three months if DHSC agrees to produce a timetabled action plan detailing how it will address issues such as housing and workforce shortages at both national and regional levels.
We are also calling for the immediate implementation of recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Rightful Lives 8 point plan.
Alongside our discussions with DHSC, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England, we have been calling for an enforceable right to independent living and has developed a legal model to incorporate it into domestic law.
This would protect the right of disabled people to live independently and as part of the community, and it would also strengthen the law that put a presumption in favour of living in the community and the views of individuals at the heart of decision-making.
Press contact details
For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:
0161 829 8102
07767 272 818 (out of hours)
Latest News from
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Schools targeted with inquiry into use of restraint12/02/2020 09:25:00
EHRC have launched a formal inquiry into how schools are monitoring and recording their use of restraint, following widespread concerns about its use and the lack of data available.
New guidance calls for employers to step up and protect staff from harassment15/01/2020 15:10:00
As the Equality Act enters its second decade, employers are being given support in protecting their workforces in the shape of new guidance published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Queen's Speech: response from David Isaac20/12/2019 15:43:00
Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair David Isaac yesterday responded to the Queen's Speech.
Manders win race adoption case06/12/2019 16:05:00
Berkshire based adoption agency found to have discriminated against a British born couple of Sikh Indian heritage.
Universities oblivious to scale of racial abuse on campus23/10/2019 13:25:00
Our inquiry report Tackling racial harassment: universities challenged has revealed that with racial harassment occurring at an alarmingly high rate across British universities, many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are not only unaware of the scale of the issue but are overconfident in their ability to handle it.
Calling time on NDAs in discrimination cases17/10/2019 15:10:00
Two years after the #MeToo campaign, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched new guidance for employers on the use of confidentiality agreements (often referred to as NDAs) in discrimination cases.
Queen's speech 2019: a time of great uncertainty and change15/10/2019 11:33:00
Equality and Human Rights Commission Chief Executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath yesterday responded to the commitments outlined in the Queen's Speech.
First ever UK human rights tracker launched10/10/2019 09:25:00
A tool to make the UK’s human rights records transparent, and the Government accountable, launched yesterday.