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Published, 16 December 2019

Secure Care focus of new investigation by Scotland's Children's Commissioner

The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland has announced an investigation into secure accommodation in Scotland to assess whether local authorities are fulfilling their legal obligations including to uphold the rights of children and young people in their care.

In Scotland, secure accommodation - where the liberty of a child or young person is restricted - should only be provided in situations where it would not be possible to ensure their safety otherwise and they need care and protection 24 hours a day.

A breach of the current law - (Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Implementation of Secure Accommodation Authorisation) (Scotland) Regulations 2013) – would be a breach of a child's human rights. The Children's Commissioner Bruce Adamson, wants to use the Commissioner's legal powers to urgently establish if there are breaches and if it is the case that children and young people in secure accommodation are having their voices heard in the decision to place them in secure care and are aware of their rights to appeal or review decisions, or not.

To determine a suitable home for children when they can't live with their own family, by definition (UN Guidelines) this determination must include taking account of children's views. When children are placed in unsuitable accommodation this can cause significant harm to their wellbeing, their relationships, and to their development. The deprivation of a child's liberty is an exceptionally serious decision. Unjustifiable deprivation of their liberty is a breach of a child's human rights and contravenes the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK is a signatory and Scotland is intending to incorporate into Scots law.

Under Scots law, the main procedure for children to be placed in secure accommodation is authorisation by a children's hearing, and then a decision by the Chief Social Work Officer and the Head of the secure unit to implement that authorisation.

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