Month: July 2015

Restraint research published

The Youth Justice Board has published research it commissioned in 2013 on the use of head-holds in child prisons. Twenty-two adults studying at Coventry University, aged between 18 and 24, volunteered to have their heart and lung function tested in a laboratory whilst they were subject to 12 different head-holds. The psychological impact on the students was also recorded.

The researchers recommend that children be held in as upright position as possible, since head-holds at a 70 degree angle were found to be more uncomfortable than a 30 degree angle. They also warn about the risks of children’s mouths being “held closed” during this type of restraint, and say the dangers should be emphasised in training.

In April 2004, 15 year-old Gareth Myatt died whilst being subject to the ‘seated double embrace’ form of restraint then authorised for use on children in secure training centres and immigration detention. A mixed race child, Gareth had been looked after by his local authority on five separate occasions and was very vulnerable. He weighed around 41kg and was just 1.5 metres tall. The three G4S officers holding him down at Rainsbrook secure training centre ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.

Introduce statutory limits to immigration detention, says UN

UK law must set limits on how long an individual can be held in immigration detention, says the UN Human Rights Committee.

The UN body of experts monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose rights were drawn from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights established after the Second World War.

There is currently no upper limit on the time a child or an adult is held in immigration detention in the UK.

Latest statistics published by the government show 121 children entered immigration detention in the year ending March 2015. Of the 43 children leaving detention in the first three months of 2015:

  • 29 had been held for less than 4 days
  • 11 were held for between 4 and 7 days
  • 3 were held for between 15 and 28 days.

The UN Committee also urged the UK to increase the age of criminal responsbility, which is currently 10 in England and Wales. Such a move would reduce the use of imprisonment, since welfare rather than criminal justice agencies would be required to respond to the needs of children at a much earlier stage.

Consistent with successive recommendations from other human rights bodies, at home and abroad, the UK Government was also told to give children the same protection from assault as adults.

Read the UN report here.

Government commits to “embedding children’s rights”

The government has committed to giving due consideration to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child when developing new policy and legislation.

This pledge was first made on behalf of the coalition government by former children’s minister Sarah Teather, back in December 2010.

The renewed promise came in response to a parliamentary question from Labour Peer Ruth Lister.

Education minister Lord Nash explains, “We believe that embedding children’s rights in government policy can strengthen services and improve outcomes for children”.

The minister’s statement cites government guidance on children’s homes as an example of children’s rights implementation. This guidance requires children’s homes managers to inform children of their rights and how to contact the Office for Children’s Commissioner for England for advice and assistance.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. Articles 2 and 4 require governments to take all appropriate action, including through legislation, to make the Convention’s rights a reality for all children. These are much stronger legal obligations than giving due consideration to the treaty.

Children’s rights campaigners welcomed the due consideration promise when it was first made, because it signalled the Convention could play a much bigger role in government policy-making.

In March this year, parliament’s joint committee on human rights, of which Baroness Lister was a member from 2012, called on the government to restate its commitment to giving due consideration to the Convention but also urged ministers to act on pledges like these “more avidly and to ensure that the good intentions they signify have practical and positive effects”.

Article 42 requires widespread dissemination of the Convention, to children and adults alike. The last time the UK Government published information booklets on the Convention was in 1998.

When did government stop keeping tally on prisoner compensation?

In a reply to a parliamentary question from Conservative MP Phillip Davies, prisons minister Andrew Selous says the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) no longer keeps track of compensation payments made to prisoners for, among other things, assaults and medical negligence.

Details of such claims were last released to parliament in September 2010 and showed the following prisoner compensation payments between 2004 and 2010:

Medical negligence – £4,225,724 total payments
Assaults by staff – £1,151,866 total payments
Assaults by prisoners – £392,088 total payments
Abuse/harrassment – £9,000 total payments

The 2010 data did not specify which compensation payments were made to individuals imprisoned as children, and which were made to adult prisoners. But a 2014 freedom of information request found a total of £252,370 had been paid to child prisoners across the previous five years.

Central government must listen more to care leavers

In a review of support and services offered to care leavers, the National Audit Office (NAO) urges the government to “do more to listen to care leavers and hear their suggestions for improving services”. Praising the work of the Office of Children’s Commissioner and local authorities like Derbyshire County Council, the NAO says not enough is known nationally of the experiences of young people leaving care. Data is not collected on the proportion of care leavers that are homeless, have mental health problems or commit suicide, for example. Only 8 of 151 local authorities were able to provide information to central government about where their care leavers were living and whether they were in education or work. Some councils told government their care leavers were in suitable accommodation, even when they were homeless or imprisoned.

The NAO also points to disparities between resources invested by local authorities in leaving care support, ranging from just £300 to £20,000 per young person. The average was £6,250. However, questions are raised about the consistency of the data provided by local councils and the NAO concludes, “there is no clear correlation between local authorities’ spending on care leavers and the quantity and quality of their services”.

A third of care leavers in 2013/14 were children (aged under 18), yet in 2013 half of 22 year-olds still lived with their parents.

Read the report here.