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Published, 27 November 2019

Call for improved mental health provision in secure care and young offenders' facilities

The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee published a report on 26 November 2019, Secure care and prison places for children and young people in Scotland, following its inquiry into issues relating to the provision of mental health services and secure care places for children and young people in Scotland, and the current and future capacity and structure of secure care. The inquiry also touched upon the care of young people imprisoned in HMP YOI Polmont.

The report, which includes key recommendations, is calling for improved mental health support for young people in secure care or a young offenders' institution (YOI), including an assessment of the young person's needs within their first few days of entry. The Committee wants to see consistent, high-quality physical, educational and health support throughout the young person's stay. Evidence given to the Committee during its inquiry fiound a 'postcode lottery' of provision, and showed that over 60% of young people who offend have speech, language and communication needs, and significant numbers self-harm or have attempted suicide.

The Committee is of the view that when the judicial system decides to place young people in secure care or prison then it is incumbent that they are provided with the best possible care and services in order to keep them safe, meet their needs, and aid their rehabilitation back into the community.

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."

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