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

By Steve Scown, Dimensions’ CEO

It is sobering, this Christmas, that new data* has revealed half of 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 for years been saying 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, apply more of the same techniques. 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 that 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 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)

What a cynical and self-serving post this is. The CEO of Dimensions has a solution to all the problems of caring for the complex and vulnerable individuals who sometimes find themselves in hospital services (“inmates” as Mr Scown scandalously refers to them) and that solution is…wait for it…Dimensions! How do they do this? Why, by creating a “suitable service” of course. Doh! Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

Dear Mikey,

It is possible to interpret this blog in the way you have.

However, Dimensions is a not-for-profit organisation, a charitable society. We are not here for organisational enrichment. No shareholders stand to benefit. We are here to play a part in improving things for people with learning disabilities and autism, and accountable to our Board for this.

To that end we try to deliver the best possible services to the people we support directly, and increasingly to speak up for those we do not support. This blog is a attempt to provide a comprehensive and credible solution to an intractable problem and we plan to express our views more strongly on similar key issues over time, whether or not there could be future benefit for Dimensions.

Fair enough, I will put my scepticism on hold. I look forward to reading more from you. happy new year!