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UK News

Church called to support autistic children following new report

A study by The Joint Committee on Human Rights found youngsters are living in "horrific" conditions at mental health hospitals in the UK that can inflict "terrible suffering" on those detained.

The report describes the "grim, predictable pathway to inappropriate detention" that takes place when struggling children are taken away from their home and the familiarity of routine.

"Under these conditions, the young person unsurprisingly gets worse and is then put through physical restraint and solitary confinement - which the institution calls seclusion. As the child gets even worse so plans to return home are shelved. The days turn into weeks, then months and in some cases even years," the report reads.

 
Mark Arnold is the additional needs ministry director at Christian youth charity Urban Saints.

He tells Premier he shares the anger and disappointment of the report's authors:

"This isn't new, it's been going on for a long time. And not much has been done to raise awareness about it. But here we are still with the same things happening over and over again.

"The staff in mental health institutions haven't had adequate training or support to be able to know how to best get alongside them.

"A better understanding and acceptance of autism and of young people with learning disabilities is needed."

Arnold, who has a 17-year-old son with autism says struggling children shouldn't be isolated: "They're taken away from their support networks and the people they trust, away from their routines, restrained, which can be physically painful, but can also really affect them emotionally and mentally as well. Sometimes they are medicated and all of this is a perfect storm that results in responding in ways that just spiral this further and further out of control."

He went on to say that children with learning disabilities need to be embraced, supported and accepted by their local communities.

"Everybody deserves the right to be able to live in their community and be a part of their community."

The Committee of MP's and peers has called for an overhaul of mental health law and hospital inspections in England and urged the government to take urgent action to improve standards and protect those in care.

Mark is encouraging the Christian community to use its voice to speak up on this issue and provide a loving and accepting environment for those in need of care:

"The Church has a platform and an influence that we can use collectively to continue to raise awareness about this and to campaign and bring pressure on those that are making these decisions

"On a local level, I think it's about looking out for those families that we're aware of in our communities, who already maybe have children that are caught up in the system or are at risk of being caught up in the system and, asking them what we can do as church to get alongside them.

"But it's also about making our own churches, our own places of worship, a safe place for everybody a place where children, young people, adults, who are autistic or have learning disabilities or additional needs can be welcomed, accepted, included and to really belong."

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