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Chamber and committees

Public Petitions Committee

Meeting date: Thursday, May 11, 2017

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, New Petitions, Continued Petitions


Continued Petitions

Residential Care (Severely Learning-disabled People) (PE1545)

The Convener

The first continued petition is PE1545, by Ann Maxwell, on behalf of the Muir Maxwell Trust, on residential care provision for the severely learning disabled. Members have a note by the clerk and submissions from the Scottish Government and the petitioner. The Scottish Government has provided an update on the data collection work that it is undertaking. The petitioner’s view is that the data focuses on out-of-area placements and will not address the gap in data that she has identified in her petition.

Do members have any comments or suggestions for action?

I am a bit confused about what out-of-area placements are.

The Convener

My understanding—I stand to be corrected—is that they are made when there is no suitable placement within a local authority area. The petition suggests that people are even moving to other parts of the United Kingdom to get support because there is not enough provision in their local communities.

My sense is that part of the petitioner’s request for the right data is about finding out not only who is having to move outwith their area or outwith Scotland to be supported, but where people might be being kept inappropriately or supported inappropriately in a healthcare setting when they could be moved somewhere else. It is also about folk who are being supported by their families at home. There is no recognition that, for some people, residential support might be the most appropriate option. If my understanding is right, that is partly what the petitioner is flagging up.

The petitioner seems to recognise that there has been some progress and they welcome that progress, but there is also a frustration that the Scottish Government is not necessarily addressing the other issue, which is that people are being supported at home because more appropriate support is not available for them and that is not being caught anywhere—it is not being recognised.

It is not being captured in the data.

Brian Whittle

That raises the even bigger issue of appropriate residential care for many of the groups that I have come across within my own surgeries—younger adults who have multiple sclerosis, for example, and who end up having to go into old people’s care homes because there is no appropriate support. It opens up a whole different avenue if that is something that we want to explore.

The Convener

If my recollection is correct, there is something in the paperwork about people with learning disabilities and healthcare issues—the complexities of their needs need to be properly supported but that is not necessarily happening because the kind of places that might seem to be appropriate for them are not really appropriate. It is not recognised that people might be dealing with or experiencing a combination of different things.

I know that the Scottish Government has looked at the policy requirements in the keys to life strategy but that is about bringing people who are in out-of-area placements back to Scotland—it is about folk who have already been placed elsewhere. I think that the petitioner recognises that that is important but other questions are not being addressed.

Brian Whittle

I visited a really good example down in my area—the Hansel Alliance near Symington—and you can see the difference that living in that environment would make; you can also see the cost that is involved in creating that environment. That is a headache for councils, for sure.

The Convener

It is true that, as you say, this has implications for a range of other issues. We need to think about what we want to do next. A first step could be to ask the Scottish Government to respond to the petitioner’s point about its limited response in that the narrow collection of data does not really deal with the broader question. The petitioner would then be able to get a sense of whether the Scottish Government will at some point recognise the bigger question that has been highlighted.

Rona Mackay

Also, the quantitative analysis was due to be completed by February, while the qualitative analysis will go on until September this year. It would be good to hear from the Scottish Government about progress on that and to learn what the results of the quantitative analysis were.

The Convener

Yes—we can ask for an update on that as well. Do members agree to take those actions?

Members indicated agreement.

Restraint and Seclusion in Schools (National Guidance) (PE1548)

The Convener

Petition PE1548, by Beth Morrison, is on national guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools. At our previous consideration of the petition, the Deputy First Minister said that he expected draft guidance on de-escalation and physical intervention to be published by the end of May, subject to any feedback from the committee. He explained that the purpose behind it was to encourage “positive relationships and behaviour”.

In her most recent submission, the petitioner welcomed the fact that the Scottish Government has decided

“to promote the use of the communication passport as a pro-active strategy to help staff avoid the use of physical intervention”.

She also welcomed the Deputy First Minister’s indication that he would be happy to review the efficacy of the application of the draft guidance by local authorities, and asked whether he would commit to undertaking a review in May 2019.

However, the petitioner expressed her concern that isolation rooms will remain. The draft guidance is in annex A of our papers. Do members have any comments, taking account of the petitioner’s recent submission and the evidence that we heard from the Deputy First Minister?

The guidance seems a bit silent about a clear distinction between a safe space and an isolation room. The petitioner’s concern is that an isolation room will simply be rebranded as a safe space or seclusion room with the idea that that will get rid of the problem. To be fair to the Deputy First Minister, he explicitly said that he would not play games with language in order to get past what is quite a challenge.


It was very much a last resort.

We want the guidance to be explicit about what these rooms would be expected to be like.

The guidance lacked a definition of a safe room. I can see the difficulty for the Deputy First Minister, in this environment, in providing a definition, but I would like the guidance to define a safe room.

The Convener

The draft guidance says:

“Where seclusion or isolation is used it should be used under supervision, time limited and should take into account the additional support needs of the child”.

It probably needs to address more explicitly the concern that it is often bare rooms or cupboards that are used—their use is seen as a punishment. By talking about seclusion and isolation as if they are the same thing, the guidance perhaps does not address the fact that the United Nations has said they should not be used at all. Do members have further comments?

Rona Mackay

Mrs Morrison’s letter is encouraging in that she is heartened by the progress that has been made. She asks us to keep the petition open while the situation is being monitored, which I think that we most certainly will do, because it is a very important issue. It is almost a work in progress, and we need to nail down any other questions that we want to ask about it.

The Convener

To provide reassurance, I flag up the final paragraph in the guidance, which says:

“The rights of all children and young people should be a key consideration where physical intervention is being considered.”

If it were “must” instead of “should”, I wonder whether it would give families confidence about the idea that seclusion or isolation can be used as a punishment. Perhaps they would not need to think about what the room was like—they would know that it would be compliant. Maybe we could flag that up to the Government.

It would be worth clarifying that.

I agree.

We also want to know whether the Deputy First Minister will commit to undertaking a review in May 2019, at which point the Government will reflect on its own guidance.

That is sensible.

Is that acceptable?

Members indicated agreement.

We have agreed not to close the petition. Some reassurance still needs to be provided about the draft guidance, as discussed. We will ask the Deputy First Minister to come back to us with a response.

Shared Space Schemes (Moratorium) (PE1595)

The Convener

Petition PE1595, by Sandy Taylor, calls for a moratorium on shared space schemes. Members have a note by the clerks that sets out an update on developments since our previous consideration of the petition. The paper includes a response from Sustrans and information on the shared space seminar that we invited the Government to arrange. A recent report from the Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Commons is also brought to our attention. Do members have any comments on the petition?

I declare an interest in the petition, because Mr Taylor, the petitioner, is a constituent of mine, and I attended the shared space seminar.

Did you feel that the seminar was productive?

Rona Mackay

It highlighted certain issues, but I find it hard to say whether it was productive. It was a discussion about concerns, but I am not entirely sure what was achieved by it. To be fair, I missed a lot of it because I was only there for an hour, so perhaps it is not for me to say how important it was. I spoke to our petitioner and he did not feel that it was particularly productive.

The Convener

I understand that a report of the seminars will be circulated so we could probably contact the Scottish Government and ask when it would be reasonable to expect that, as practitioners might have got things out of the seminar or flagged up issues that will feed through.

Is there anything else that we should be doing? I think that we still recognise that there is an issue. The report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee was really interesting.

Rona Mackay

It was very interesting and to the point. We should ask the petitioner whether he would like to make another submission based on that new statement. We should also ask for his impression of the seminar and whether he felt that it moved things forward at all.

The Convener

Shall we seek further views from the petitioner on what progress has been made from the Sustrans seminar and whether he has any comments about the UK Parliament report?

Members indicated agreement.

Speed Awareness Courses (PE1600)

The Convener

The next petition is PE1600, by John Chapman, on speed awareness courses. Since our previous consideration of the petition, the Scottish Government has provided an update from the meeting of its strategic partnership board. The submission indicates that the strategic partnership board will meet again in September and that Police Scotland has been asked to provide a more detailed paper for consideration of suggested models for a pilot programme and, if agreed, wider roll-out of speed awareness courses. However, it notes that the board does not consider it appropriate to have more detailed discussions until the results of the UK Government’s evaluation are known.

The petitioner has provided a short submission that queries why the Scottish Government is waiting for the UK Government findings.

Do members have any comments or suggestions for action? I am struck by the irony that the petition is about speed, but there does not seem to be much speed in the taking forward of the issues. It is unbelievably—I do not know what the word is—delayed. It is tottering along at a very slow rate.

In the slow lane.

The Convener

Do members have a view? My sense is that the petitioner must be frustrated, because this is pretty basic and it could be done quite quickly. The description of the paper that the strategic partnership board has asked for from Police Scotland for its next meeting talks about consideration of

“suggested models for a pilot programme”

and how that would be rolled out.

Perhaps I am missing something—does anybody else understand why it is so complicated? Is something making it difficult for the Scottish Government to take this forward?

Maurice Corry

Perhaps we should put that question to the Government. We could go back and ask why it is going to take so long. In England, 300,000 people have taken up the courses since 2008, so there is a proven model already sitting there.

The Convener

I accept that there has been some progress, because the strategic partnership board is discussing the matter. The question is why we have to wait. There is a separate question about what is taking the UK Government Department for Transport such a long time to progress it. However, if there is another option in Scotland, why should we not take it forward? As Maurice Corry said, such courses are proven to make a difference.

That is the question that we should go back with.

It is a basic question and nobody round this table will be able to answer it.

The Convener

We could go back to the Government and say that we might be missing the point here but that it does not feel like something that is terribly complicated. We believe that it would make a difference and there is evidence that it does. We want to know what the barriers are to the Scottish Government moving forward a bit.

It is clear that it is the Lord Advocate’s decision, so we might be waiting on him, but that needs to be queried.

We should bring that point out.

Okay. Is everyone agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

We will look for a speedy conclusion.

Deaths by Suicide (Inquests) (PE1604)

The Convener

The next petition is PE1604, by Catherine Matheson, which call for inquests for all deaths by suicide in Scotland.

Since we last considered the petition, we have received responses from the Minister for Mental Health and Healthcare Improvement Scotland. We also have a response from the petitioner in which she welcomes the minister’s decision to extend the terms of the section 37 review and comments that Healthcare Improvement Scotland could be doing more in its guidance to encourage national health service boards to include families in the review process.

Do members have any comments or suggestions for further action?

Rona Mackay

We should ask the Scottish Government to consult the petitioner on the issue, given that it is so serious. I am sure that her input would be useful. The Government should keep her informed of any opportunities to participate in what is being developed. In addition, any information relating to the involvement of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman would be useful.

The Convener

I was struck by the comment in Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s response that, in the 12 months to February 2017,

“37% of suicide reviews were carried out within 3 months from the date of death.”

I do not feel that that can be deemed to be a reasonable level, given what we have heard from the petitioner.

It is progress that the cases of those who committed suicide while under compulsory community treatment orders in the community will be included in the review. We welcome that announcement by the minister. As Rona Mackay said, it is important that the Government speaks to and works with the petitioner. However, I would be interested to know why only 37 per cent of suicide reviews were carried out within three months. Was it because of complexity? The petitioner feels that the response needs to be quick, as well as being considered and thoughtful.

The figure of 37 per cent does seem quite low.

The petitioner also feels that the family should be included so that they are not left feeling that they are not involved in what is happening.

Yes—in limbo.

Perhaps we can ask the Scottish Government whether it has a view on that.

Some progress has been made with regard to the extension to the section 37 review, but it is really important that the petitioner is kept involved in the progress.

The Convener

Yes. My sense is that the petitioner has highlighted something that the Government was not really aware of and that the Government has moved on it as it recognises that it is important to address the matter. Families have a perspective on suicide. Presumably, it is often the case that families, with the right information, are able to do what they can to support and protect their loved ones. It is important for families to get a sense of what happened and the circumstances in any review.

Do we agree to write again to the Scottish Government about those questions?

Members indicated agreement.

Thank you for that.

Diabetes (Continuous Glucose Monitoring Sensors) (PE1619)

The Convener

The next petition is PE1619, by Stuart Knox, on access to continuous glucose monitoring.

Members will recall that the Scottish Government has announced that it will provide £10 million during the current session of Parliament to increase NHS Scotland’s provision of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring technology for those with the greatest clinical need.

Last time we considered the petition, we agreed to seek clarification from the Scottish Government of how the people with the greatest clinical need will be identified for the purposes of the funding. The Scottish Government has explained that the Scottish diabetes group has led on identifying the relevant groups, which include very young children. We also sought clarification of how the funding will be split between insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring technology, and the Scottish Government has advised that that has yet to be confirmed.

Do members have any comments or suggestions for action? I note that we agreed to hold a fact-finding visit on the matter and that we have deferred it because of circumstances beyond our control that have eaten into our parliamentary time. However, we will want to ensure that we do that at a later stage.


We will have to defer our consideration until we have done that fact-finding visit. I do not think that we can take an honest approach to the petition until that is done.

The Convener

We will do that, and we will keep in mind that we are looking for information on what the balance of the Scottish Government provision will be. The petition can come back to the committee after the fact-finding visit has taken place. We do not envisage that being too far away, but it could be after the summer recess.

Angus MacDonald

If there was to be a decision in the meantime on the split between the provision of insulin pumps and CGM devices, can we get an early indication of that, perhaps before the fact-finding visit? That would be helpful to us when we take further evidence.

Yes. Perhaps we can contact the Scottish Government, highlight the fact that we will be doing that continued work and say that any information about progress in making that decision would help to inform us.

I declare an interest as a member of the cross-party group on diabetes. Further to what Angus MacDonald said, how the £10 million will be split and how far it will spread is going to become key.

The Convener

Such decisions are always a question of balance. How do we maximise the impact without spreading the resource so thinly that people do not really get the benefit?

Okay—that is helpful.

Child Welfare Hearings (PE1631)

The Convener

The final petition on today’s agenda is PE1631, by Maureen McVey, on child welfare hearings. Members have a note by the clerk and copies of the submissions that we have received.

Members will see that we have been provided with an example of the pro forma that is used to record information in child hearings. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is supportive of the petition. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Scottish Government have both noted that the Scottish Civil Justice Council is looking at case management in family cases. They have also noted that the petition has resource and cost implications.

Do members have any comments or suggestions for action? Although a lot of information has come through saying that there are resource and cost implications, the responses do not say what they are. We do not know whether it is a bit of a resource implication or a massive one. I would have thought that, with modern technology, it was less so.

The fundamental issue is that the petitioner feels that, when people go from one hearing to the next, the full information about what has happened to date is not being provided. That is important, although we do not want to make the system cumbersome or complex. It is interesting to see the pro forma from the pre-hearing panel and how it deals with that. I presume that that information goes into the notes and is made available at the next hearing. One of the issues with the hearings system is that people will not necessarily have the same panel members in front of them in every case.

Rona Mackay

The thing about forms such as that, which are used in children’s hearings as well, is that it depends on how well they are filled in and who fills them in. If the hearing was recorded, that would give a more accurate picture of events. It is important to get an idea of what the costs of moving to digital recording would be, because we cannot really compare that with the paper template that we have here. We need to ask for that.

The Convener

I presume that, as someone who has been a panel member, if you got that kind of form in your papers, you would read it. Realistically, if you had a digital recording of a hearing, there would still need to be a summary of it somewhere. I am not saying that the child welfare hearing and the panel are comparable—I understand that they are not the same thing—but I am thinking in practical terms about what somebody who is involved in that work would do. Would you sit through a whole digital recording or would somebody need to summarise it?

Rona Mackay

A recording would be useful if there was not enough information on the form, which is often the case. As I said, it depends on who filled it in and what information they wanted to give. If the information on the form is not clear and the panel member still has questions, a digital recording could be used as back-up. In this day and age, that would seem to be the way to go, but we need to find out the cost implications and get more information on that. Paper forms can get lost or mislaid, so it would also be a more secure approach.

The Convener

If we are agreed, we will write to the Scottish Government for more information about the cost implications of such a move and any other things that it thinks would be a problem. We will also ask whether it has a view on use of the pro forma template.

Is there any other information that we should get from elsewhere? It has been suggested that we write to the family law committee of the Scottish Civil Justice Council to get its views, because there may be something from that perspective that we are missing.

Yes. That is important.

The Convener

In that case, recognising that there are still issues that we want to explore in order to address the petitioner’s concerns, we will come back to the petition.

11:06 Meeting continued in private until 11:26.