Winterbourne View scandal 10th Anniversary

Winterbourne View Scandal – 10th Anniversary

The 10 year anniversary of the BBC Panorama programme that exposed shocking abuse at Winterbourne View is on 31st May. We want to reflect on the last 10 years and to call on the government to deliver the long overdue change they promised.  

What is the Winterbourne View scandal?

On May 31 2011, undercover filming by BBC Panorama exposed horrific abuse at Winterbourne View hospital, an ‘Assessment and Treatment Unit’ – near Bristol.  Patients with a learning disability and/or autism were repeatedly pinned down, slapped and taunted by staff. In the immediate aftermath of the Panorama programme, four people were arrested and a further 13 employees were suspended.

The physical, emotional, and mental abuse of people in a vulnerable position shocked the nation.  Promises were made at the highest level to ensure this could never happen again. The government was clear that hospitals are not homes and promised to ‘Transform care’ for people with a learning disability. They said people placed inappropriately in inpatient units should move out of these settings and get the right support in the community.

In the intervening ten years we have seen the government fail to deliver their commitments and miss their own targets and deadlines to close inpatient beds. Since Winterbourne View further abuse scandals have been exposed.  Winterbourne View was not a one-off.

At present, there are over 2000 people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in inpatient units many miles from their families. . Thousands of people are at risk of overmedication, misuse of restrictive interventions including physical and chemical restraint, and being kept in isolation.

To mark the ongoing failures and the anniversary of the Winterbourne View scandal, some families of those who were at Winterbourne View have come together to share their experiences in “Tea, smiles, and empty promises” .

Their stories show the devastating impact that inpatient units can have on those placed there, and the ongoing trauma people can experience both during and after their detention. It focuses on the need for people to get the right support in the community and avoid going into inpatient units in the first place. And where people have gone into these places, they must be supported to return to their home areas as soon as possible and be able to get the right support in the community, including trauma support where needed.

Signposting for people and families affected

If you are worried that someone you know with a learning disability and/or autism is at risk of admission to an inpatient unit, or is currently in an inpatient unit and you are concerned about their care, please see the following for further information and where to go for support:If your relative has a severe learning disability, you can contact the Challenging Behaviour Foundation Family Support Service – 0300 6660126 or email

For people with a learning disability and their families and carers, you can contact Mencap’s Learning Disability Helpline: 0808 8081111 or email

If your relative is autistic you can contact the National Autistic Society’s Autism Inpatient Mental Health casework service:


 Families who have suffered because of the #WinterbourneView scandal have come together to share their harrowing experiences in new report “Tea, smiles, and empty promises.” They, like thousands of others, have been failed by the government.  Over 2000 people with a learning disability and/or autism are currently locked up in inpatient units like the one at Winterbourne View, often miles from home and far from family. Email your MP now and demand the government make good on promises to transform care: #Winterbourne10YearsOn