My right honourable friend the Minister of State (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 8 October 2007 my right honourable friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) and I announced the appointment of Andrew Williamson CBE and Peter Smallridge CBE as independent co-chairs of the review of restraint in juvenile secure settings (Official Report, col. 20WS). The Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families have joint responsibility for the review.
My right honourable friend and I asked the chairs to report their recommendations to us by 4 April.
During their consultation on the independent review, the chairs have met a wide range of interested parties and have taken extensive written evidence. The chairs have also visited all secure training centres and a number of young offender institutions and secure children’s homes to learn first-hand about restraint and to hear of the experiences and views of both young people and staff. The chairs are grateful to all those who have provided evidence to the review.
The chairs have now moved towards a detailed consideration of their findings. The chairs have identified what they consider to be a significant remaining gap in the evidence base for their report. This concerns the use of restraint in secure children’s homes. Unlike the position in secure training centres and young offender institutions, there is a wide range of restraint methods available for commercial procurement in secure children’s homes. There is no central prescription of techniques and it is the responsibility of each local authority or provider to identify techniques appropriate to the secure children’s home for which they have responsibility, taking into account the framework for the use of restraint set out in regulations and national minimum standards. Consequently, this fragmented picture means that the information on restraint in secure children’s homes has not been as readily available to the chairs as evidence on restraint in secure training centres and young offender institutions.
It was to help the chairs close this evidence gap that the Department for Children, Schools and Families commissioned the National Children’s Bureau to undertake thorough research on restraint in secure children’s homes. This important research, which began in January, aims to provide, for the first time, a systematic map of restraint methods, systems and processes in secure children’s homes. It will also help us to identify where there are remaining gaps in our knowledge. And it will look at the data to see if there is any evidence of harm to children and young people arising from these restraint methods.
The chairs have welcomed this research project and have been kept in touch with its early emerging findings. The main outcomes of the research, however, will not be available in time for the chairs to reflect its conclusions in their recommendations. Without this research, the chairs believe, the review may be a missed opportunity to examine restraint properly in all three secure settings and to make well-founded recommendations for its future regulation. Accordingly, the chairs wrote to my right honourable friend and me on 28 February to propose that they should delay their report until 20 June to ensure that their report can reflect the results of the NCB research into secure children’s homes. We have placed a copy of the chairs’ letter in the Libraries of both Houses.
Having considered the arguments carefully, my right honourable friend and I have agreed with the chairs’ request that they now defer their report to us until 20 June 2008 at the latest. We accept the chairs’ view that to be complete their report must take the NCB research into account. The restraint of young people is a highly important issue and we believe that, on balance, it is better for the report to be deferred for a short period than for a premature or incomplete report to be submitted to the original deadline.
Although this puts back the chairs’ submission of their report, my right honourable friend and I have always been clear that the ongoing independent review would not prevent us taking urgent action on restraint where it is needed. In December 2007, my right honourable friend and I, on medical advice, suspended two PCC restraint holds used in secure training centres, the Border and Immigration Agency and Northern Ireland. And the Government will shortly be publishing their action plan to address issues raised by the coroners of the inquests into the tragic deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood.