Disabled youngsters are being 'locked up' and barred from seeing their parents amid growing chaos over coronavirus restrictions in UK care homes.
Scores of anguished families have contacted The Mail on Sunday with harrowing stories of their children, many of whom have complex needs, self-harming.
This is a reaction, say experts, to the loneliness, fear and frustration they face.
One dedicated father has told how his normally bright, happy 22-year-old son had repeatedly punched himself in the face until he was left bleeding and bruised, and ripped out his own toenails during an episode of extreme anxiety.
The problem came to light only after the father noticed his son's wounds during a video call.
Another young woman has torn out her own hair, and a once-cheerful 35-year-old woman with a learning disability was physically held down by care home staff – after reaching for her mother's hand.
'She just wanted to cuddle her mum,' said devastated Jackie Snow, 58, a part-time book-keeper from Hampshire, who added that she'd been warned that if her daughter Amy touched her, they'd shut her in her room for 14 days.
Jackie Snow (right) visited her daughter Amy (middle) for the first time in five months in mid-August. She left barely an hour later, traumatised
Last night charity bosses hit out at the 'shameful' practices, accusing homes of violating human rights law.
Dan Scorer, head of policy at disability charity Mencap, said: 'Care homes have a duty to protect their residents' human right to family life. But this is not being done – many are enforcing unnecessarily restrictive policies.'
Scope warned that 'bewildering' rules were resulting in heartbreaking situations. They added: 'Cutting people off from their loved ones risks damaging their mental health.'
One father, Nigel Over, 53, from Livingston in south-east Scotland, told this newspaper of the battle to see his son Matthew, 22, who suffers complex disabilities.
For the first four months of lockdown the family was barred from visiting his care home in Musselburgh, East Lothian. Six weeks ago, single-person, 30-minute meetings in the garden were permitted.
It means that in six months, Nigel has seen his son, who suffers a rare condition called Smith-Magenis syndrome, for just a few hours at two metres apart, and cannot touch, let alone hug him.
Residents are prohibited from venturing out of the premises – so Matthew's thrice-weekly pottery classes and daily walks into town have stopped. Once an active young man, he has become frustrated, anxious, angry – and, shockingly, has started to self-harm.
During one video call in early July, Nigel and his wife, Angela, 51, spotted a large, red gash on the middle of Matthew's forehead.
In the days beforehand, he had punched himself in the same spot between his eyes over and over again, until he broke the skin.
'When he was five or six, and he became very anxious, he'd poke his own face, but we hadn't seen him do anything as severe as this since then,' says Nigel.
'He's also smashed 18 pairs of his glasses since the start of lockdown, as well as countless mobile phones – out of frustration. He isn't even allowed to go for a short walk, for fresh air.'
Matthew moved into the home five years ago and Nigel has visited every week, without fail, often taking his son for mini-breaks to Center Parcs, enjoying macaroni cheese at their favourite cafe, or bringing him home for the weekend.
Moving Matthew into residential care was the 'toughest choice' Nigel has ever had to make, but his increasingly difficult behaviour in the house he shared with his young teenage sister, Susan, became impossible to control.
Despite this, Nigel says care has, until now, been a positive step. 'He's been able to be independent, and we've always been just a phone call away so he's never felt alone.'
But since the lockdown began, he has noticed a dramatic decline in Matthew's health.
'When we leave after our 30-minute visits, he calls within minutes, whimpering down the phone about how much he misses us. Most evenings he'll just retreat to his bedroom.
One father, Nigel Over, 53, from Livingston in south-east Scotland, told the Mail on Sunday of the battle to see his son Matthew, 22, who suffers complex disabilities. Pictured: Nigel and Matthew
'I keep explaining to the home that his mental and physical wellbeing is at serious risk if he's denied proper contact with his family, but it makes no difference.
'We've been told he's had endless toenail infections – usually caused by him ripping his toenails out when he feels anxious. Or perhaps he's hoping, if he's injured, it means he gets to see us. We can't be sure.'
Over the past two weeks this newspaper has told the stories of scores of older adults, many with dementia, cruelly kept away from loved ones for the entire pandemic.
Amid the easing of restrictions elsewhere, care homes across the UK, without clear guidance from Government, have remained in lockdown. We have now received hundreds of letters and emails from distressed families of those in care.
Among them were also disturbing reports of people with complex learning disabilities in their 20s and 30s locked up, and kept away from their parents.
There are roughly 1.5million Britons with learning disabilities, and 50,000 of them are in full-time care. Many do not have an underlying medical condition placing them in the 'vulnerable' category.
And yet reports from families and charities suggest most have remained completely confined to their homes.
One desperate mother, Trisha 43, from Lancashire, hasn't seen her daughter, Anna, 23, for six months – the Cheshire care home she lives in has banned all visitors and trips outside the premises. Anna suffers severe learning disabilities and cannot speak, wash or dress herself.
Yet prior to lockdown, she lived an active a life as many 23-year-old women, enjoying daily visits to friends at a local trampolining club, meals out at restaurants and walks on the beach with her family.
Once a fortnight she would make the 50-mile journey to the family home for time with Trisha and her brother and sister.