Today, The National Autistic Society and child mental health charity, YoungMinds, launched a new joint campaign after a survey found that more than half of parents with children in mental health hospitals in England do not feel their child’s mental health improved while they were in care.

This needs to change, urgently. That’s why this week, together with YoungMinds, we’ve launched the Always campaign. We are calling on the Government to set out strong, enforceable rights to protect children in mental health hospitals, and their families, when they need it most. Please, add your voice to ours: sign our joint petition

While autism is not a mental health problem and just like anyone else it is perfectly possible to be on the autism spectrum and have and good mental health, we know that lots of autistic children develop mental health problems, often from a lack of appropriate support. When that happens, they need support from people who understand them and understand autism.

One parent told us:

My child has had a number of admissions to different units. The communication and support from these services has been very poor. I have felt guilty, judged, not listened to and belittled. 

The campaign calls for the NHS in England to adopt our new Always Charter, which sets out 12 rights that young people in inpatient units and their families should have, always. These include important things like being as close as home as possible and being cared for by professionals who understand their needs. 

The results of our survey

The findings, based on responses from 448 parents whose children have been in mental health hospitals over the last five years, show that:
  • Only 43% of parents feel that their child’s mental health has improved while in hospital, while 54% say that they have seen no improvement. A quarter (24%) think that their child’s mental health has deteriorated a lot.
  • 44% of parents have felt unable to challenge decisions about their child’s treatment, while 52% do not know what rights their child has or they have while their child is in hospital. 
  • 44% couldn’t visit their child as often as they would have liked to because of the distance or travel time. 
  • A third (33%) say that they were not consulted about decisions about medication, and 40% have been uncomfortable with decisions made about medication.
  • More than a third (39%) say their child has not been supported to have a suitable education.

The National Autistic Society and YoungMinds believe this has to be addressed by strengthening the rights and voices of children and their parents. Sign our petition today.