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Children and Young People: Restrictive Intervention

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green 4:23 pm, 25th April 2019

First, I pay tribute to the work of Inquest and Deborah Coles, who has worked in this field for many years and has a great deal of expertise. She continues to support families through very difficult processes, including inquests, which we know, as constituency MPs, can be extremely testing times for families. I also want to thank Norman Lamb for securing the debate and for his expertise in this matter.

It is 15 years since Gareth Myatt died in a child prison. That is a terrible anniversary, when we think of how little has changed in the human rights picture. Adam Rickwood sadly hanged himself following restraint, also by people much bigger and older than he was, yet we still hear the sorts of figures mentioned by my hon. Friend Mr Reed.

I want very briefly to put on record my thanks for what I learned as a Member of Parliament from listening to the passage of the Bill and from Seni’s family. They were suffering, but how generous they were to allow their own family experience to teach us, as Members of Parliament, the meaning of what we do and how we can press the human rights of all those young people—not just those under 18, but those in their early 20s—who end up in these terrible situations.

It is clear from the Joint Committee on Human Rights report that there is insufficient oversight and accountability in many of our settings—mental health settings, child prison settings or child training centre settings. For example, there is the tragic case of Amy El-Keria, who died at the Priory some time ago. We know that much of what happened to her before she tragically died involved inadequate staffing levels, failures to share key risk and care information with staff and inadequate systems for identifying and managing ligature risk, such as placing Amy in an unsuitable room containing high-risk ligature points and missed opportunities to remove a scarf in Amy’s possession. There were failures adequately to address the bullying of Amy by her peers or to follow the Priory’s anti-bullying procedures, and failures to pass on key information about Amy’s increased suicide risk on the day of her death. Finally, there was the delay in undertaking the final observation during which Amy was found hanging. To add to that, as I know from reading the paperwork that came out at the inquest, not one member of staff accompanied her to the hospital when, tragically, she was pronounced dead.

We must all remember these terrible incidents. Small numbers of people are in care in some form, but these individual stories do tell a tragic truth. In these individual cases of when things going wrong, there must be much quicker action by those working in child and adolescent mental health services and various other mental health systems. I would also like to see much more supervision of staff, particularly agency staff and new staff coming in on overnight shifts, when so much of this tends to happen.

In summing up, I merely want to put on record two key points. First, the Government must comply with international law and end the restraint techniques that we know, both from the passage of Seni’s law and from the work that the right hon. Member for North Norfolk has emphasised today, are unlawful and contrary to the human rights of children. Secondly, the solitary confinement of children in detention should be completed phased out as a practice.

I will reiterate the very useful points that the right hon. Gentleman made in his opening speech. When will the Government publish guidance on this important area? When will the training requirements be clarified for providers who are paid by the public purse to look after children with severe mental health problems, developmental problems and other sorts of difficulties? Will the funding be adequate for those training requirements and for the providers, and will these apply to all settings in which children, sadly, are virtually imprisoned, including both children’s social care and mental health settings?