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 humiliationGovernment 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