Assessment and Treatment Units don’t work. Fact. Here’s my solution.

Steve Scown
Dimensions CEO, Steve Scown, blogs.

It is sobering, this Christmas, that new data* has revealed half of Assessment and Treatment Unit (ATU) “inmates” in December 2015 were already in that institution when analysis began in 2013.

So-called Assessment and Treatment Units are designed to offer a short term crisis intervention, allowing a swift return home. This data proves that they don’t. They incarcerate people for the long term.

Social care professionals have been saying for years that ATUs are not an appropriate solution to a crisis. It’s an obvious vicious circle.

Remove someone from their home for treatment (a quarter of “inmates” were sent more than 100km away from home, family and friends) into an unfamiliar, sterile environment that regularly uses restraint and seclusion to manage behaviour. And, as soon as an inmate’s behaviour gets worse, more of the same techniques are applied. It’s a wonder anyone manages to leave.

Neither local nor national government is listening. Local authorities are failing to create the community based services that will largely prevent these issues in the first place, and then treat individuals properly in the event of a crisis.

The government’s recent “Homes not Hospitals” report makes yet another promise to get half of the inmates released from ATUs.

Half. Even supposing they deliver on this latest in a long line of promises, do we just forget about the other half?

The 1,500 people whose lives are being wrecked daily. Whose families are powerless to get them out. Who would almost invariably be able to thrive in their local community with the right support.

There is a place for assessing and treating people who are undergoing a crisis. It is in their community, surrounded by their loved ones and those who know them. It is not incarceration in an alien institution.

This is not simply a protest. Dimensions proposes a comprehensive solution.

In this position statement, we cover challenging behaviour and mental health, community based support and what local and national government must to do give people with learning disabilities and autism their right to independence and a home.

We are working with local authorities across England to help people with learning disabilities find houses close to their families and friends and in communities they choose.

We have the country’s largest team of behaviour support specialists and, together with highly trained staff, can create a suitable service in the community for almost any individual.

I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. It will not be so merry for those people locked up in ATUs. My New Year’s resolution is to ensure Dimensions plays its part in getting those people out.

What’s yours?

*Data from the Learning Disability Census Report – England, 30th of September 2015 (HSCIC)