The Panorama programme aired by the BBC on Wednesday 22ndMay showing the abuse of people with learning disabilities, and the recently published CQC report revealing the detainment of people with learning disabilities and autism in ATUs (Assessment and Treatment Units), once again reveals the appalling mistreatment and abuse experienced by some of society’s most vulnerable people.

The CQC report describes how people with learning disabilities are being kept in isolation in single locked rooms, without human contact, fresh air, or any chance to live anything like a full and fulfilling life. Children as young as eleven are being held in segregation in ATUs. One individual had been held in segregation for nearly a decade.

The Panorama programme revealed abuse of people with learning disabilities by care staff at Whorlton Hall, a hospital for people with learning disabilities. It comes less than eight years after a Panorama programme found systematic abuse at Winterbourne View, a hospital for people with learning disabilities in Gloucestershire.

Responding to the CQC report and the Panorama programme, Kathleen Boyle, Deputy National Leader of L’Arche UK, said: ‘It’s sickening to know that people with learning disabilities and special needs are experiencing abuse, being treated as less than equal citizens and are having their rights denied.

‘We are keeping some of the most vulnerable people in society locked up with no chance of building relationships, or building a meaningful and fulfilling life.

‘People with learning disabilities and autism, locked away in hospitals, are not problems. They are people with gifts and deserve to be recognised and treated with the same dignity and respect as anybody else.

‘People with learning disabilities enrich our societies and our world is a better place for having them in it. In order for any of us to thrive we need relationships and connections, ways to contribute meaningfully in society, and people around us - friends and family and the right kind of support. People do not thrive by being locked away, denied contact with the world and treated as though they are a problem.

‘L’Arche is not naïve. We realise that we are not a solution for everybody with complex needs in the world. But we, and others alike, have the insight and lived experience that can be offered to those who are, yet again, going to try and ‘solve this problem.’

‘Last week was the funeral of Jean Vanier, who founded L’Arche. L’Arche works for a world where everyone belongs, where everyone has a place, and where everyone’s gifts are celebrated. Jean found that if you sit with those who have been dismissed or marginalised by society, you learn a lot about them as individuals, about yourself, and about what a healthy and thriving society can look like. L’Arche communities around the world know that we are changed through relationships.’