Screenshot from Hospital Abuse Scandal Panorama documentary

The abuse and mistreatment uncovered in last night’s BBC Panorama documentary is heart-breaking and deeply shocking.

This is a national scandal. The system of care for autistic people and people with a learning disability is broken. We’ve had enough discussions and reviews. We need the Government to show leadership and act now to reform the system as a whole.

Sign our petition

Sign our petition and tell the Government to end the abuse and mistreatment of autistic people and those with learning disabilities in inpatient units. This will increase the impact of our charity’s and other campaigners’ efforts to bring about the change that must happen. We need action now.

We are calling on the Government to:

  • Declare that autistic people and people with a learning disability are #HumanToo and must have their human rights safeguarded
  • Immediately commit to make money available to set up the right community services for autistic people and people with a learning disability - and that this is ring-fenced
  • Change the wording of the definition of ‘mental disorder’ in the Mental Health Act, which currently includes autism and learning disability – whilst legally safeguarding ‘at risk’ individuals access to Care & Treatment Reviews
  • Establish accountability right across Government to make sure this happens

As well as this petition, our research in recent years has highlighted how autistic people in particular are being let down by the system and we backed a petition for this to be debated in Parliament. Because the whole system of care needs to change, this year we are working with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism to carry out an inquiry into the Autism Act and support for autistic people. And today, we have announced that we are backing a group of families’ attempt to challenge the way that the Mental Health Act is used for autistic people.

Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said:

The shocking abuse uncovered by BBC's Panorama investigation should provoke a national outcry – a call for action which the Government cannot ignore.

“It's been seven long years since the Government pledged to transform care for autistic people and people with learning disabilities. It’s clear from Panorama’s investigation, and in reports this week from the Children’s Commissioner and the CQC, that this has failed.

“Our first concern is whether every autistic person or person with a learning disability in that hospital is now safe and well-supported. The abuse must be fully investigated and the police and other authorities must establish exactly what has happened.

“It is now indisputable that the whole system of care for autistic people and people with a learning disability is broken. We’ve had enough discussions and reviews. What we need is the Government to show leadership and act now to reform the system as a whole.

“This means making sure autistic people are able to access community services earlier on so they don’t reach crisis point. It means finally fixing the crisis in social care funding and, importantly, it means reviewing the Mental Health Act’s definition of autism as a 'mental disorder' so we can stop autistic people being inappropriately detained.”

BBC Panorama will be exploring these issues further with a two-part investigation about the failing of the social care system, starting on Wednesday 29 May. Find out more on the Panorama website.

Further information

  • Sign our petition and tell the Government to end the abuse and mistreatment of autistic people and with a learning disability in inpatient units.
  • Read about two hard-hitting reports from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Children’s Commissioner for England this week, which reveal the extent of the scandal of autistic people stuck in mental health hospitals.
  • Read more stories about autistic people who’ve been stuck in inpatient care in our Transforming Care: our stories report and find out about the extent of the scandal in our Beyond Transforming Care report.
  • For information about what to do if an autistic family member is at risk or has been admitted to or discharged from a mental health hospital, visit our page on autism and mental health.
  • Bringing us Together have produced this very useful Survival Guide for care and treatment reviews.