The family of a severely autistic woman have called for an urgent investigation after she was detained under the Mental Health Act – which, they claim, means she faces the prospect of being removed from her island home.
Eilidh MacNeil, 23, who suffers from a range of complex issues, spent her younger years at a specialist facility in Ayrshire and was said by her family to have “thrived” there.
However, on turning 21, she was required to move home and the family worked with the Western Isles Council social work department to put in place suitable arrangements.
In May this year, Miss MacNeil moved back to Stornoway, where she was housed in supervised accommodation.
But four complaints by the family were upheld by the Care Commission and a fellow resident was moved.
However, Miss MacNeil’s family said the sudden change in circumstance sparked an escalation in Miss MacNeil’s behaviour and social work management sought an order under the Mental Health Act.
Miss MacNeil is now in the psychiatric ward in Western Isles Hospital – but it is threatened with closure and she now faces the prospect of being sent to a unit on the mainland.
She is also on a daily course of benzodiazepine — despite never previously requiring any medicine.
Catherine Ann MacLeod, Miss MacNeil’s aunt, said there has been a “mishandling” of her situation from the moment she was required to come back to the island.
Ms acLeod said: “Eilidh is not psychotic – what she was displaying was traits of autism. Eilidh is not able to process sudden changes without careful handling. It would never have happened had a proper care plan been in place.
“Whatever happens now, they’ve broken Eilidh; she’ll not be the same now. It’s broken my sister, too. I want the whole thing investigated by the proper authorities so this does not happen to another family.”
Miss MacLeod, who said the case was “a clear abuse of Eilidh’s human rights”, was not interested in any apology from the council. “What happens when you smash a glass on the floor? You can apologise all you want, but it’s going to stay broken.”
The case has also been raised with local MSP Alasdair Allan.
He said: “I am very concerned that the family need to be reassured that there is accommodation for Eilidh long-term on the island.”Care Commission
A council spokesman said: “As a general principle, we are committed to supporting people with complex needs in their own communities but for a small number of people there are circumstances in which outcomes will improve if they are supported in specialist centres of excellence on the mainland.
“This is not a matter of a lack of financial resources but rather not having the required levels of specialist care and expertise.
“Whilst this is the case for many areas across Scotland it is clearly more acute in an island setting.”