Group of people outside the Senedd all holding protest placards

Learning Disability Wales is asking you to sign and share a petition to stop the detention of people with a learning disability and autistic people in hospital.

This comes after a protest outside the Senedd saw hundreds gather to call for the release of people with a learning disability and/or autistic people from secure hospital settings in Wales.

What the petition calls for

The Homes Not Hospitals protest and the petition have been organised by Stolen Lives, a campaign group of families and carers of people with a learning disability and/or autism from Wales who have been detained in hospitals.

The petition states: “There are people with learning disabilities and/or autism from Wales who are living in hospitals. This is a human rights scandal which has been ignored for too long.

“Many people with learning disabilities and/or autism are trapped in hospitals due to a lack of appropriate housing and support in their community. Many are sectioned due to placement breakdown, and they have been inappropriately placed.

“Welsh Government must recognise that sectioning people under the Mental Health Act is not the solution.”

If the petition achieves 10,000 signatures, then it will be considered for debate in the Senedd. This will mean this issue receives the political prominence it deserves so that change can happen.

What campaigners say

Dawn Cavanagh from the Stolen Lives campaign group spoke passionately at the protest, saying: “We will never tire of fighting for our children, and we will never tire of fighting for what is right and that is why we are here today.

“How society treats its most vulnerable is always a measure of its humanity. When we stop seeing people as human beings, human rights will be breached.

“Your support will give comfort to the families fighting for their loved ones. It is deeply traumatic to have a loved-one locked up in hospital.”

Sophie Hinksman, member of All Wales People First and co-Chair of the Learning Disability Ministerial Advisory group, was previously placed in a hospital secure unit herself and believes there needs to be a better understanding of learning disability.

She shared her story at the protest, explaining that her stay in hospital severely affected her mental health and well-being. She said: “We must not confuse mental health with a learning disability. They are very different.”

Sioned Williams MS, Chair of the Senedd Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability, is backing the campaign and addressed the rally. She said: “Inappropriately placing people in hospitals and units is to my mind a fundamental breach of human rights. Wales led the way 40 years ago, but we should, I’m afraid, be ashamed as a nation that this injustice is allowed to continue.”

What Learning Disability Wales says

It is more than 40 years since the pioneering All Wales Strategy was first published in 1983, which aimed to get people with a learning disability out of long stay hospitals and be supported to live in their local communities.

Zoe Richards, Chief Executive of Learning Disability Wales, wants people to share the petition as widely as possible.

She said: “The protest at the Senedd brought to public attention the worrying reality that people with a learning disability are being kept in hospital instead of being given care and support in their communities.

“But the campaigning has only just started, and we continue to support the Stolen Lives group. As we speak to colleagues in the Welsh Government and raise awareness of this with politicians from all parties, we would urge everyone to sign and share the petition so that this matter is debated in the Senedd.

“It is vital that the voices of the families of those affected are heard and their stories are listened to and understood ­– and that action is taken to stop the detention of people with a learning disability and/or autism in hospital.”

How to get involved

To sign and share the petition go to:

You can read the Stolen Lives manifesto, including easy read versions, here: Stolen Lives blog.