HEALTH bosses have sanctioned the detention of 14 people with autism or learning difficulties.

The Echo recently discovered up to ten people with the condition living in Southend or Rochford were being held in secure units under the Mental Health Act.

Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group has now confirmed it has 14 individuals being held.

The information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, follows national concerns over the ethics of detaining such people in units designed for those with wide-ranging and severe mental health conditions.

Whistleblowing health professionals have stepped forward following a national newspaper campaign to stop the routine locking up of teenagers and young adults with autism and learning disabilities.

Many of those locked up under the act are held in private clinics which can charge up to £730,000 a year for each patient, much of it funded by the NHS.

Out of the 14 Basildon residents detained, three have been locked up for more than a year.

None are being held in private units according to the Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Campaigner Christine Christine Papalabropoulos lost her daughter in 2009 after a series of NHS failings. NHS ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor found Tina Papalabropoulos, 23, died in Basildon hospital after blunders by the hospital and an out of hours GP service.

Ms Papalabropoulos believes her daughter’s “grossly inadequate care” was because of the attitude towards people with learning difficulties.

She said: “There has been a lot written over the last few months on the abuse that has been happening in mental health units.

“I did meet with a head of the primary care trust to enquire about the amount of young people that were locked up in Essex, and about the restraint and abuse that had been happening.

“The response to my questions was they weren’t at liberty to discuss this with me.

“Sadly I’m not shocked with this figure however having said that I’m very angry that not enough is being done to bring these young people with autism or learning disabilities back into the community. I’m asking for Essex County Council to act promptly on this. Young adults with autism or a learning disability haven’t committed a crime - they are just born different.”