Scottish Government responds to review of mental health services at Polmont

Date: 24th June 2019
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms, Basic Health and Welfare, Family Environment and Alternative Care, Children in conflict with the law, Special protection measures

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Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf’s response included a commitment to develop a bespoke mental health strategy for young people, end the routine use of strip searches and to “explore options” for a pilot of in cell phones to support family contact.

Giving his statement on 19th June 2019, Mr Yousaf noted:

“the review makes some important and challenging findings, highlighting the heightened vulnerability of young people on remand and those in early days of custody; the damaging impact of social isolation; and the vital importance of good information sharing between agencies, and many more issues.”

In response to the review, Mr Yousaf noted that certain actions were already being taken or were planned, including:

  1. Developing a new bespoke mental health strategy for young people in custody
  2. Ending the use of routine strip searches of under 18s in custody
  3. Exploring potential for a pilot of “in cell” phones to support positive contact between young people and their families. Mr Yousaf noted that positive family contact had mental health benefits and reduced the risk of reoffending.
  4. The creation of an Action Group to oversee progress towards the 80 recommendations made by the review. This group includes officials from Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service and the NHS.

Bruce Adamson, Commissioner for Children and Young People, said:

“The Scottish Government’s commitments to stop routine strip searching and to introduce in-cell telephone phone contact are welcome. Those actions promote and protect children’s rights to dignity, privacy and family life and to improve their mental wellbeing.

Yet, much more needs to be done to ensure children’s safety and wellbeing when they are placed in detention. Scotland’s aspiration to be the best place to grow up extends to all children, including those in detention.

I recommend the Scottish Government should ensure that appropriate accommodation is available to meet the needs of children in detention in line with international human rights standards."