Proposed new law to protect children from harmful restraint is much needed 

Acting Commissioner supports Private Members’ Bill

Nick Hobbs, Acting Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said:

“We fully support Daniel Johnson MSP’s Private Member’s Bill which aims to introduce legally enforceable guidelines on physical restraint of children in educational settings, along with mandatory recording and reporting of all incidents. 

“All children deserve protection from all forms of abuse or harm, in all aspects of their lives. Children have the right to feel safe. They have a right to dignity, to bodily integrity, and to be protected from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.   

“The Scottish Government has had years to answer the calls from families, campaigners, charities and our office to produce statutory guidance on physical restraint and seclusions of children in education. It is deeply concerning that this has still not been implemented. 

Since publication of our investigation report in 2018, the need for a coherent statutory framework covering all settings in which children experience restraint has become clearer and more pressing. The Children’s Care and Justice Bill currently going through the parliamentary process was a missed opportunity where the government could have addressed this. Parliamentarians are human rights guarantors and we are pleased that Daniel Johnson MSP is championing the protection of children’s rights through this proposed law, which is vitally important. 

“Sadly, we continue to hear of many cases of children being restrained or placed in seclusion in a range of different settings. Yet legally restraint must only be used as a last resort to prevent harm, using the minimum force, for the minimum time necessary. Restraint that does not meet these tests is unlawful and must be treated as a child protection or safeguarding issue. 

“The proposed Bill includes mandatory recording and reporting of all restraint incidents, which is essential to protecting children. It was a strong recommendation in our investigation that all local authorities should be recording all incidents of restraint and seclusion in schools consistently, and the anonymised data provided to the Scottish Government for monitoring.  Recording when restraint and seclusion take place is a vital way to monitor and scrutinise practice.  

“We remain clear that there needs to be holistic, human rights based statutory guidance on restraint.  This must be based on a consistent legal framework that applies to all situations where children are in the care of the State, including schools, residential and secure care, and mental health provision. Any use of physical restraint is traumatic and creates a risk of harm for the child and the staff member involved. Failure to ensure rights-respecting practice leaves children without the protection that they are entitled to, and the Scottish Government in breach of its human rights obligations.” 

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