Month: July 2019

Government still undecided on pain-inducing restraint

The Government’s response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry into solitary confinement and restraint in youth detention is published today. It shows that Ministers remain undecided about the Ministry of Justice’s policy of training custody officers to deliberately inflict pain on children – despite the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) concluding in February that the techniques are a form of child abuse which must be prohibited by law.

The Government says it will respond to the Committee’s recommendation that pain-inducing restraint be banned once it has considered the findings of a review by Charlie Taylor, which was launched in October 2018 following litigation by Article 39.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

When a public inquiry says that children are being abused as a result of government policy, it is incumbent on Ministers to take immediate action to change that policy and stop the mistreatment. We are coming up to five months since the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended the prohibition of pain-inducing restraint, and we don’t even know whether Ministers want to remove these violent techniques let alone how they will go about training and supporting staff to eschew prison forms of control.

In April, the parliamentary committee urged the prohibition of pain-inducing restraint, which is part of the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) system in use in juvenile young offender institutions (YOIs) and secure training centres (STCs).

MMPR is also followed by GEOAmey escort custody officers contracted to take remanded and sentenced children to and from YOIs, STCs and secure children’s homes.

Staff in secure children’s homes are prohibited from inflicting pain as a form of restraint. Pain-inducing restraint is also not permitted in health settings. At the end of last month, the Department for Education and Department for Health and Social Care published non-statutory guidance on reducing restraint and restrictive interventions in children’s health, social care and special education settings. A key principle is that:

restraint is not used to punish or with the intention of inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation

Government guidance issued 27 June 2019 in respect of children’s health, social care and special education

Carolyne Willow adds:

Government departments focused on children’s welfare and health don’t allow staff to deliberately inflict pain. There is absolutely no justification for Ministers operating a separate set of values and child protection rules for children in custody.

There has been no public call for evidence to the Charlie Taylor review. Earlier this month, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health published its letter to Charlie Taylor, which states:

… pain-inducing restraint techniques are a form of child abuse, violate children’s rights and must be prohibited.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health letter to Charlie Taylor, 5 July 2019

Oasis Charitable Trust to run Medway secure school

Days after another child died in prison, the Ministry of Justice has announced that the Oasis Charitable Trust has been selected to run its first experimental secure school.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, said:

“The site chosen for the experimental secure school is a child prison beset by abuse scandals and systemic failures.

“Three years ago, BBC Panorama undercover footage showed serious emotional and physical abuse, with officers using restraint as a cover for mistreatment. In January, a serious case review reported that every local and national agency working in and with Medway secure training centre had failed to safeguard children, with a lack of proper analysis of allegations by the Local Safeguarding Children Board. A previous review found there had been 35 separate whistleblowing communications to the Youth Justice Board over a period of seven years. Ofsted found unlawful use of pain-inducing restraint when it last inspected the prison, and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse reported in February that there were 44 alleged sexual abuse incidents in the centre between 2012 and 2017. 

“When we and others wrote to the Minister to object on child protection grounds, the only specific reason he gave for choosing the site was that the Government owns the land and building and doesn’t have to go through a protracted planning permission process. The safety and welfare of very vulnerable children should govern decision-making, not the convenience of already owning a prison building. 

“Oasis Charitable Trust appears to lack any experience of looking after children in a residential setting. There are inevitable parallels with G4S and Serco being handed contracts to run secure training centres in the late 1990s without any relevant experience. Secure training centres were similarly marketed as centres of excellence in children’s education and care. Nothing I have seen or heard shows that the Government has properly reflected on why children suffered so badly for so long in those institutions. There has been no explanation either as to why the law has been changed to allow 16-19 academies to become secure children’s homes, when additional investment in the best of existing provision would have been the most obvious and safer path to take.”