Mental health care for young people in justice system to be considered by MSPs

MSPs at the Scottish Parliament are to consider the provision of mental health and secure care for children and young people in the justice system.

On Tuesday, Holyrood’s Justice Committee will hear evidence from witnesses including HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Wendy Sinclair-Gieben as part of work to examine some of the key issues around mental health in secure units and at HMYOI Polmont (pictured) in the Falkirk Council area.

It follows the publication last week of a report into the provision of mental health services for young people entering and in custody at Polmont, which highlighted some shortcomings in the system currently in place.

A review was prompted by the deaths of two young people while in custody at Polmont in 2018.

The report made a total of 80 recommendations, including the creation of a bespoke suicide and self-harm strategy for young people.

Speaking ahead of the session at Holyrood on Tuesday, Justice Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “Tragic events at Polmont have brought to the fore the issue of the mental health of young people placed in prison and secure care.

“The committee is keen to do what it can to help improve support for young people in the justice system.

“With this in mind, MSPs will be examining whether the recommendations made by this review actually help young people placed into prison or secure care, and more widely the secure care system.

“Crucially, the committee will consider whether the current set-up is structured and funded in a way that is sustainable.

“This will include looking at whether it meets the needs of young people and the wider policy aims of the Scottish Government around reducing reoffending and rehabilitating young people.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We welcome the committee’s consideration of the expert review’s recommendations.

“The Scottish Government takes the mental wellbeing of people in prison very seriously and while the numbers of suicides by young people in custody are small, no death should be regarded as inevitable.

“Any suicide in custody is a tragedy that has a profound effect on family and friends, as well as prison staff, and our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

“We also recognise good quality secure care, which helps improve outcomes for children with highly complex needs to allow them time to re-engage and move forward positively in their community, are needed in some cases.

“We are currently considering the 80 recommendations set out in the expert review and have already confirmed we will work with partners to consider further immediate actions to improve the support and care for young people in custody as well as reflect fully on the wider strategic recommendations in the report. We will provide an update to Parliament before recess.”

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