Our Advice and Investigations team does a lot of work around the law.
They use the law to improve human rights for young people and create legal reports to help human rights defenders understand the rights situation in Scotland.
And they also help the Commissioner use a power which only he has to investigate issues impacting children’s human rights.
Our investigation into secure accommodation
In 2019, the team began to investigate if children were being locked up without the proper laws being followed.
This is called Deprivation of liberty, and it happens when someone is kept somewhere without their permission and not allowed to leave.
For children, it’s something that should only ever happen when there is no other choice. Even then, it should only happen for the shortest possible time and in a place that’s appropriate for a child.
But it shouldn’t happen to anyone without due process. This means if a person is to lose their liberty, that should only happen after a process where standard laws and rules are followed.
We’re concerned this isn’t the case for all children in secure accommodation in Scotland right now.
Secure accommodation is a place where children can go to get help if it isn’t safe to live at home because they might hurt themselves or someone else.
To make sure that they get the help they need and to keep them safe, they are locked in and can’t leave. It is a place that children should only go if there is no other place where they can get help. It is important that children are involved in the decision to send them to secure and that they understand why it is in their best interest to be there.
There are laws which need to be followed before you go into secure accommodation, and we’re worried that some of them might not have been.
If that has happened then it would be a serious violation of human rights, so that’s why we’re investigating.
Our investigation into restraint and seclusion
Our earlier investigation into restraint and seclusion in Scotland’s schools continues to have a big impact.
Restraint means holding a child or young person to stop them moving.
And seclusion means shutting them alone in a room and not allowing them to leave.
Our investigation means more people across the UK are now regarding this as an issue for children’s human rights.
It also made a lot of recommendations to the Scottish Government about what it needed to do to keep its human rights promises to children around restraint and seclusion. But to begin with, the Governmentdidn’t agree to do everything that we asked.
In June 2019, they said they would make some changes to their existing rules to make them better. But they said that they would not write special rules for restraint and seclusion that all schools have to follow.
That they would not record all the times restraint and seclusion happens in Scotland.
And that local councils should continue to write their own rules and record their own information, with the Scottish Government giving them some help to do that.
This wasn’t good enough. The Scottish Government has made promises to children to keep them safe under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They need to keep them.
So to make sure they did this, we worked with our friends at the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland. Together, we wrote to the Scottish Government in August 2019.
We told them the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland would go to court to ask a judge to decide if the Government was properly protecting children in school.
We had our evidence to show the court that the Government was not keeping its promises to children.
After this, we met twice with John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education. He has now agreed to change the Government’s position.
Now, the Government will write special rules for restraint and seclusion for all schools to follow.
They will make sure children, young people and families are involved in writing these rules.
They will check after a year to see if these rules are working to make restraint and seclusion happen less often.
They will make sure schools are inspected on their use of restraint and seclusion.
And they will make sure councils report in the same way when restraint and seclusion happen.
We think this is much better, and these changes meant that we didn’t need to go to court.
Instead we will work with the Government, children, parents, carers and experts to make the new rules as powerful as they can be.