Legal Challenge Over Children’s Mental Health

Photos of Eddie Hanlon

Parents whose children have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act are taking legal action to get them treated closer to home.

Last year, almost half of under 18-year-olds with learning difficulties were placed in hospitals more than 60 miles from home and families have begun to campaign for change.

Solicitors Leigh Day are looking into the cases of at least 18 children to see whether they should be detained and whether their human rights are being breached.

In the UK there are 1,442 beds available for children with mental health issues, with London and the North West having most spaces. However, the South West has just 54 beds, the lowest per head of the population.

Of those being treated last year, 165 children with learning disabilities needed inpatient care and 42% of those were sent to hospitals more than 60 miles from home.

Stephen Dalton from the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network said: “The problem is that because of a postcode lottery of where services are located, where money is invested, even when children get access to services some of them can be hundreds of miles from home.”

Adele Hanlon has launched a petition to get her son released

Eddie Hanlon, 16, has autism, bipolar and epilepsy. For the last two years he has been in a secure unit in Newcastle, 300 miles from his Bristol home.

His mother Adele gets to see him just once a month and she has set up an online petition to get him out of hospital which has more than 64,000 signatures.

She told Sky News: “It’s like having a child taken away from you. It’s like being punished, you feel hopeless. The environment is like a prison; doors slamming, keys jangling.

“I’ve never seen Eddie’s bedroom, I don’t know where he lives, essentially, I suppose”.

Last year, the Government announced it would spend £1.bn on children’s mental health care over the next five years and the Department of Health says it is delivering on its commitment to young people’s mental health.

NHS England insists more beds are being made available and additional investment will help. However, the Government insists change won’t happen overnight.