Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Children usually enter secure settings because they pose a risk to themselves / others / their needs cannot be met any other way. This can be extremely positive for the child when they give 'time-out' where the focus becomes about identifying a child's difficulties and providing child centred, personalised support within the setting for as long as the young person needs it. For this to happen staff need to be experienced and skilled and committed to helping the young people in their care. It should be obvious to all that there are likely to be significant conflicts of interests within these settings and potentially the needs of the young person may come a poor second to the needs of the organisation running the hospital/prison etc.
Health Children with autism and learning disabilities are overly represented in secure settings and there is widespread concern that in many cases they are being used to 'contain' disabled children because their needs have not been understood and/or met by mainstream services. (e.g. See the UN 2017 report ) There have also been shocking cases of neglect and abuse of children by care staff in Winterbourne View and Medway Secure Training Centre. The Transforming Care programme aims to replace hospital beds within institutions with smaller local facilities. See Transforming Care : Our Stories. - If your young person is at immediate risk of entering an assessment and treatment unit see here. - Post-18? See this you tube Support for adults with learning disabilities as they grow older - What to expect - Also see this 2018 Transparency Project blog Reporting restrictions on Bethany’s dad – children’s rights or concealing system failure? - and this case that offers an insight into very low standards of care in some of these settings and includes unlawful detention. Justice When a child or young person under 18 is remanded or sentenced to custody, the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) decides where they should be placed. This will be either at a secure training centre, secure children’s home or under-18 young offender institution (for young males only). If your young person is at risk of going to prison it may be better if they enter Care (the tests for entering Care would usually be met if a young person is at risk of going to prison eg beyond parental control) via the Family Court as the Family Court can look at issues of a young persons welfare (issues around diagnosis and meeting associated needs will be important) while the criminal courts will only look at protecting the public (ensuring the young person is locked away if they present risks to the public). Each young person's circumstances are different and there is no route that will ensure your young persons needs are met in a secure setting however the Care route is likely to be slightly better at opening up more and better options particularly if the IRO gets behind your young person as they should. The Howard League have a free advice line for children who may be at risk of prison and they may be able to talk through some of the issues.
See - A report on child defendants and video links (PDF) The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) has published a report on child defendants and video links. Key findings include: child defendants appearing via video link are less likely to understand what is happening in court than those attending in person; child defendants appearing via video link cannot consult their lawyer properly nor communicate with the judge in the court; and children who appear via video are much less likely to appreciate the seriousness of the situation or present themselves well, prejudicing their outcomes at court.
- The Children’s Commissioner for England has published a report on the use of segregation (separation) in youth custody. Findings from data collected by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) from Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) and Secure Training Centres (STCs) in England and Wales about their use of segregation in the period 1 January to 30 June 2018 include: the average length of an episode of segregation across all YOIs is 16.15 days; the longest period of segregation was 100 days, with all YOIs in England reporting at least one instance of segregation of 75 days or more; STCs reported 508 separate instances of segregation, involving 395 children; the longest period of segregation in an STC was 280 minutes. A report on the use of segregation in youth custody in England (PDF)
Ownership and Inspection While some settings are publicly owned, most are privately owned and staffed. All are currently subject to inspection by Ofsted and/or CQC or secure estate inspectors.
Working with families Children's wishes and best interests should always be at the centre of decision making about them. When young people leave their community, family members are likely to be the only people professionals involved in a child's care meet, who knew the child before they entered the secure setting and what their 'normal' is. NHS England has recognised 'the difficulties for families 'and the need for them to be asked, informed and involved' when a young person enters a secure setting for health reasons.That the need for 'asking, involving and informing' families needs to be spelled out is also indicative of the gulf between professionals and families that can emerge as a result of the 'primal' drive of most parents to protect their children set against many professionals who take 'ownership' of these same children as a crisis response and slot them into whatever gap they can find in the system they work within, irrespective of the young person's wishes, needs and capacities. Support/campaigning groups for adopters have called for a more humane use of language by professionals e.g. using language such as 'families that live apart' to describe families in these situations, rather than seeking to prove inadequate parenting/caring skills.
Considerations 1. 'Who can consent to a deprivation of liberty for children and young persons? - a practical guide' See http://www.no5.com/news-and-publications/publications/400-who-can-consent-to-a-deprivation-of-liberty-for-children-and-young-persons-a-practical-guide/ See here for some of the issues around competency. and also see page Accomodated By Agreement? 2. As a parent, as your child becomes older, your role in decision making in their life is always likely to reduce as a result of :- -Your Child’s right to make their own decisions as they get older -Rules around information sharing If you do not have parental responsibility or your child chooses not to share information with you then you are likely to find you have ‘almost’ no way of affecting what is happening to them. This can bring parents into conflict with professionals especially if they are concerned about the support or treatment their child is getting/not getting. This is extremely difficult for parents, aware of a child's distress and risks of harm to the child in the wrong environment who may come to believe that decision-making about their child is not in their child's best interests. Young people and their families in this situation rely on all professionals to do their job with the utmost commitment and integrity. Parents whose children enter a secure setting after Care proceedings or are placed by the YJB are likely to face additional obstacles influencing arrangements involving their child.
5. It is important to understand who is paying for a child’s care. Is it a local authority (e.g. residential school), a CCG (e.g. hospital 'bed'?), NHS England ( hospital 'bed' for offenders) or the Ministry of Justice ( eg. training centres ) ? Understanding who is paying will help you understand the ‘levers’ that need to be used to ‘unlock’ good care for your child. If the clinical commissioning group (CCG) is funding, a designated commissioner ( sometimes an experienced disability nurse ) should be attending reviews, have asked for and read all reports including a 'Social Circumstances Report', have met you and your child as part of the review process and be alert to problems e.g. if asked, without warning, to provide funds for additional/unanticipated support due to a deterioration in a young person's functioning - a possible sign there is a problem with the 'placement'.
6. A commonly identified difficulty preventing return to the community, is that responsibility for funding needs to shift from say, the local CCG, to the local authority. Also there is a risk that the clinical experts within institutions may be influenced in their clinical decision making by concerns that full bed occupancy is needed to ensure financial viability. It is important that there is someone else involved in reviews with the clinical expertise to challenge. In other circumstances it is possible that, just as a child's functioning improves, the child is moved to a less expensive setting where they lose the support that has helped them improve/flourish. It is also true that if a child enters a secure setting of any kind, there are unlikely to be 'one size fits all answers' nor can all risks of failure in support/endeavor be eliminated. Most young people want to be self-directed and that should be the aim, within certain limits around extreme risk, of all.
7. The Children’s Commissioner has a particular role to advocate for children in these settings and some MP's have taken up the cause of parents campaigning for appropriate provision for autistic children. You can find your MP here. Article 39's website is excellent at explaining how to access help https://rights4children.org.uk
9. Some young people with complex histories and risky behaviours may have capacity and be able to complete all ‘activities of daily living’ . They are able to engage in conversation but are vulnerable and, if not in prison, need to diverted into a secure environment because of the risk they are assessed as having to society. This article is aimed at professionals – how you can make a difference.
INITIATIVES 1. The Howard League offer legal advice where young people and children are physically or mentally ill but not getting the help they need while in custody including getting them transferred from secure detention to secure hospitals. They also offer initial advice to children and young people who are locked up to ensure that their rights to accommodation and support from local authorities are enforced when they leave secure detention and on their rights to local authority support whilst they are locked up. 2. RCSLT- Addressing communication deficits of young offenders 3. Secure schools vision (Ministry of Justice) As part of their commitment to reforming youth justice system, the Ministry of Justice set out their vision for secure schools. Secure schools will have up to 70 places, and will be run by not for profit child-focused and creative providers who will put education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of their work to rehabilitate young offenders.
The Guardian reports on a Family Court ruling highlighting a lack of secure accommodation. This meant the judge was unable to grant a secure accommodation order for a convicted 16-year-old who was involved in county line drug dealing and needed to escape gang involvement. Source:GuardianDate: 10 October 2018 Further information: BAILII