“For the first time in over five years, I won’t be worrying on Christmas Day about my brother, Elliot, being locked away from the world.
“Elliot has always had a great sense of humour. He’s very polite and he loves model train sets and Star Wars figurines. Elliot is severely autistic and has a learning disability A learning disability is to do with the way someone's brain works. It makes it harder for someone to learn, understand or do things. . My mum, Christine, had accepted she would be his lifelong carer, so nothing could’ve prepared us for the day he was taken away and locked up in a mental health hospital.
“Sometimes, people with autism Autism is a disability. Autistic people find it difficult to understand what other people think and feel. They also find it difficult to tell people what they think and feel. Everyone with autism is different. like my brother experience ‘distressed’ or ‘challenging’ behaviours. They may become very upset and hurt themselves because they’re struggling to express themselves.
“When Elliot was 22, he was going through a state of crisis, so we reached out to our local community A community is the people and places in an area. care team for support. That’s when Elliot was admitted to a mental health hospital for assessment An assessment is a way of finding out what help a person needs. When you have an assessment, you might have to go to a meeting or fill in a form. and treatment. We thought this was temporary, but it turned into a four-year battle to free him.
“Elliot became one of at least 2,000 people with learning disabilities and autism who are currently trapped in these hospitals. Many of these people don’t have a complex mental health problem and they can be locked away for more than five years at a time. This is despite the Government The Government are the people who run the country. The Government decide how much tax people should pay and how things like the National Health Service (NHS) should work. ’s repeated promises to move people with a learning disability and autism out of these hospitals and provide them with the right care and support in the community.
“My brother is not a danger to anyone, and he’s never done anything to justify this treatment. Getting him out of that hospital was all I could think about. Somehow, I managed to hold down a job and raise two young children while campaigning, working with a solicitor and constantly worrying about his safety.
“Elliot had an awful time in hospital. He spent countless weeks in seclusion – isolated from other patients, and he had no freedom or quality of life. He also sustained injuries while being restrained by a member of staff.
“Investigations by authorities, including the Care Quality Commission, have agreed these hospitals are not the right environment for people with learning disabilities and autism. They are noisy, overwhelming, and only increase the risk of people like Elliot experiencing ‘distressed’ behaviours. Without the right staff and the right training, people may be subjected to restrictive, or in some cases, even abusive practices.
“Finally, on the 24th of August this year, our battle became easier. A care package was provided for Elliot in the community, which included 24-hour care inside his own bungalow, just a ten-minute drive from my mum’s home.
“On the day he was released, all I could think about was packing his things and getting him out of there, but now, I’m struggling to deal with everything that’s happened. I’m having trauma therapy and I know I’ll never be the same person I was before Elliot went away.
“It gives our family peace of mind that Elliot is set up in his own home, and he tells us he’s being well looked after. He’ll phone me every day with a list of toy trains he’s seen on eBay, and hopefully his current care package can be a stepping stone for the future.
“So far, Elliot has been to the Railway Museum and to the local gym to chill in the jacuzzi. He’s also visited his favourite tree at Beningbrough Hall, a beautiful stately home near us in Yorkshire.
“We’ve put up a Christmas tree in the bungalow and as a family we’ll go with the flow this year – we’ll spend Christmas Day doing whatever Elliot wants. I can relax knowing he’s not stuck in hospital, but it will take a long time for Elliot to heal from his experiences and feel safe again
“This is a ‘new normal’ for us and it’s hard accepting that a system which is supposed to keep families together has torn ours apart. I have very little faith in the Government. They’ve missed so many targets to close these hospitals and we need a strong support model that can provide people with the right care in the community.
“Now, I want to support other families who are going through this. I know that while we’re busy planning for the future, there are many people who will be separated and stuck in hospital this Christmas. They’ll spend Christmas Day like I once did, waiting for a phone call, and worrying what’s happening to their loved ones inside these terrible places.”
Learn more about our Homes Not Hospitals campaign and why so many people like Elliot are still locked away in inpatient units at mencap.org.uk/TransformingCare.