MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are calling for better mental health support for young people ordered into either secure care or a young offenders’ institution (YOI).
The Committee is calling for assessments of a young person’s needs to be made within the first days of their incarceration, and consistent, high-quality physical, educational and mental health support to be provided thereafter.
Evidence given to the Committee during its inquiry showed that over 60% of young people who offend have significant speech, language and communication needs, and significant numbers also self-harm or have attempted suicide. In spite of this, it found that there is a ‘postcode lottery’ in the provision of child and adolescent mental health support, particularly in secure care units outside of Glasgow.
There was also a call for more flexibility to be introduced into the system to allow a young person the possibility of remaining in a secure care unit beyond their 18th birthday, if this was found to be in their best interests. At present, people held in secure care units must move to HMP YOI Polmont on turning 18 even if they only have a short period left thereby potentially disrupting their care regime.
Speaking as the report was launched, Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“We know that many young offenders and people in secure care have themselves had traumatic childhoods, and have lived through adverse childhood experiences.
“Every effort must be made to ensure that these often vulnerable young people, who are in the care of the state, are in a safe environment, where they are provided with, and take, opportunities to rehabilitate. Sadly we are currently not achieving this in all cases, sometimes with the most tragic consequences."
“The Committee has highlighted a number of areas where improvements might be made.
“In particular, there is a pressing need for better mental health support, and improved contacts with family and friends. This would help young people to reintegrate, as well as to reduce the social isolation faced by young people on the inside.”
The Committee has also called for a rethink of the funding model for secure care from March 2020, when the current funding model is due to end. It has suggested that either block-funding or national commissioning (as opposed to local authority commissioning at present) would help ensure secure care units spend more time and effort focusing on helping those in their care, and less time on their own financial sustainability.
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