Children with Additional Support Needs (Safety and Wellbeing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th November 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

6. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government is doing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children with additional support needs. (S5F-03688)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all Scotland’s children and young people, along with local authorities, which are responsible for the care, safety and welfare of pupils in school. A range of guidance and approaches is available to support local authorities and schools. Physical intervention—physical restraint and seclusion—should only ever be used as an absolute last resort and only when it is in the best interests of the child or young person, never for disciplinary purposes. The unlawful use of physical intervention or seclusion is completely unacceptable and every intervention should be carefully monitored and reviewed.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

In December last year, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland published a report on the use of restraint and seclusion. It identified 2,674 such incidents in 2017-18, experienced by 386 children. That is an average of seven per child. If that is an average, it means that, for some children, being physically restrained is just part of their typical school week or even their typical school day and, according to the commissioner, that is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.

We are one year on and we have seen no action. That is why Enable Scotland has launched its in safe hands campaign. Will the First Minister commit to a formal Government response to Enable’s calls for the Government to bring forward specific guidance on the use of restraint in schools, to establish a duty to report and to provide transparency around such practices? Will she consider putting those duties into law? Finally, does she agree that children have a right to education and a right to be protected from violence? The real meaning of the use of seclusion and restraint is that children are being denied those rights in Scottish schools every day.

The First Minister:

First, I agree with the point on a right to education and a right to be protected from physical intervention or violence; that is an important point to make. It is not the case that no action has been taken. We published guidance on restraint and seclusion back in June 2017 and that is currently being revised to take into account recommendations made by the children’s commissioner and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. We want to work in partnership with education authorities, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to ensure that we get that right and that the correct approach is taken to recording and monitoring, as well as making sure that we have a situation in which physical intervention or restraint and seclusion is a last resort and is used only in the best interests of children.

Daniel Johnson made a point about putting that on a statutory footing, which is certainly something that we would be happy to consider as we undertake the review. The recommendations that were made by Enable Scotland this week in its report will be carefully considered by the Scottish Government and all the recommendations will feed into the work that we are doing to review the guidance. I will ask the Deputy First Minister to keep Daniel Johnson updated as that work progresses.

12:43 Meeting suspended.

12:45 On resuming—