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A local authority and a community special school are facing legal action on behalf of two autistic pupils over the use of a ‘calm room’ to manage their behaviours.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for the claimants, said the pupils were allegedly ‘detained’ in the room at Abbey Hill School in Stoke on Trent for “for prolonged periods, where they defecated and urinated and showed other signs of considerable stress and anxiety”.
The claimants are now at alternative specialist autism centres.
In a letter to the school, Leigh Day claimed the two pupils had been “subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and that the use of the ‘calm room’ for extended periods, without appropriate safeguards in place, was an unlawful act as it deprived pupils of their liberty”.
Merry Varney, a lawyer in the human rights team at Leigh Day said: “Although the use of seclusion and ‘calm rooms’ are recognised, positive tools to use to assist autistic children, these must be used appropriately with effective safeguards in place to prevent inappropriate use.
“Our clients appear to have been placed regularly in a very small room, with little natural light, sparse furniture, and no ability to leave, for an hour or more at a time. Rather than having any calming effect, the periods of seclusion led to significantly increased distress and deterioration in our clients’ behaviour.”
Varney added that the parents had not been informed at the time of the extent of the use of ‘calm room’.
Stoke have been approached for comment. A spokesman for Stoke said: “The allegations concern the use of the quiet room at the school and only relate to two pupils who left the school in 2012. The quiet room has not been used for more than 12 months. This matter is now the subject of legal discussions and it is not appropriate to comment further.”
August 2014 saw the 2013 ESAY figures published. ESAY is a Scottish database complied by the respected Scottish Consortium on Learning Disability on what support and services people with learning disabilities get.
We have been concerned for a while about the decline in number of people with learning disabilities known to Glasgow City Council. We have been given different reasons for a regular annual decline – counting systems, double counting, introduction of personalisation. It turns out that the reason for this is that their new computer system only counts the number of people who actually get support (see Note 1 on page 3). This computer system (Carefirst 6) was introduced in the last couple of years to help manage the personalisation process.
As a result it is likely that Glasgow's computer system is very good tracking the number of people getting Self Directed Support over the last few years. So the Glasgow figures can tell us how many people with learning disabilities get support as personalisation has spread through their services.
In 2009-10 2,724 got a service (2010 ESAY figures page 55)
By 2012-13 it had fallen to just 2,410 getting a service (2013 page 5) – a fall of 314.
This will be made up of people who have been denied a service because they are deemed ineligible for support, those who have died and a reduced number of young people getting a service for the first time.
We can see the evidence for some of this if we look at the ESAY figures for Glasgow.
In 2009-10 204 people with learning disabilities in the 16-20 age group got a service (page 55).
In 2012-13 this had fallen to only 143 . (pages 6 & 7) - a fall of 30%.
There has been a lot of attention to what is called “transition”. Yet this seems to suggest that many young people are not getting support as they move over to adult services. We are not able to be sure exactly what is happening but we do think there need to some explanation of what is going on in Scotland's largest city.
Scotland Against the Care Tax (SACT) has launched a national petition calling on the Scottish Government to abolish charging for social care, the ‘Care Tax,’ as frustration with the failure of COSLA to regulate care charges has led to voluntary sector representatives walking out of the partnership.
The petition calls on the Scottish Government to use powers it already has to abolish care charges throughout Scotland. It has been signed by 29 organisations representing disabled people, people with long-term conditions, older people and carers. Sign the petition here
Three years ago COSLA told the Scottish Government it would set up a working group to harmonise charges across Scotland in response to concerns over poor practice. A number disabled people’s representatives have worked with COSLA since 2011 to try and deliver this. Of the 5 third sector organisations represented on the COSLA Working Group 3 have resigned from it this week.
Figures show that over the last three years, care charges have risen on average by 12% with increases in some councils far more than that. Aberdeen City has more than doubled its charging income from disabled people in the last 2 years, while West Dunbartonshire Council has more than trebled their income from the Care Tax.
Nearly every local authority in Scotland charges disabled people for the care they receive. Councils are currently allowed to choose if and what to charge. Support for getting up and going to bed, eating and drinking, and seeing family and friends are all things that can be charged for.
There is no upper limit on what councils can charge for care. This means some disabled people are charged 100% of their own, already severely limited, income for the care they are entitled to.
We are really pleased to tell you that a number of groups have helped to from the Learning Disability Alliance in England. There is no direct connection with the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland but they too will be a campaigning body and we look forward to working with them on any areas where we have joint concerns.
The Campaign for a Fair Society in England has come together with three other organisations to establish the Learning Disability Alliance:
- People First England, which represents people with learning disabilities
- Bringing Us Together, which represents families
- Housing & Support Alliance, which represents community organisations and professionals
The Scottish Government is changing how NHS Scotland and Councils work together to deliver adult health and social care services. It wants to make sure that people get the right services at the right time and that people’s money is spent on what people need.
The Scottish Government has brought in a new law which will make every council and health board form new Health and Social Care Partnerships. NHS Boards and Councils will share the responsibility for these partnerships.