Children and Young People: Restrictive Intervention DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Nadhim ZahawiMain Page: Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative - Stratford-on-Avon)
Department Debates - View all Nadhim Zahawi's debates with the Department for Education
I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting this important debate. It was secured by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb)—who made an excellent speech—along with my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), who gave some powerful personal testimony, as did the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law).
This is a difficult and, for some, very personal issue to talk about. I congratulate all the Members who have spoken, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed). Members will know that his private Member’s Bill, known as Seni’s law, was predicated on the devastating and inexcusable death of his constituent Seni Lewis in 2010. Seni had been restrained so excessively, so unreasonably, that he died. Seni’s law addressed the issue of prone restraint—the act of forcing someone’s face into the ground—and, as we know, Seni was not the first person to die in such circumstances. In 2014, during his time as a Minister in the Department of Health, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk issued guidance on the restraining of adults, with the intention that it should be followed by guidance on the restraining of children.
The national inquiry into child sexual abuse recently concluded that “pain compliance” was child abuse and should be outlawed, and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has also argued that such methods should not be used on children. Article 19 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which has already been mentioned today, states that Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them. According to the BBC, these painful techniques were designed for prison riots, with the aim of forcing individuals to comply through the use of pain. I should not even need to say this, but we should not be using prison riot techniques on children.
What is also concerning, and constitutes the essence of the debate, is the continued absence of clear guidance from the Government. Although their consultation on draft guidance to reduce the need for the restraint of children took place between November 2017 and January 2018, we have still not received the results. Will the Minister tell us when they will be published?
Parents have argued that, in the absence of guidance and with the prevailing uncertainty, schools are using so-called restraint techniques against children with special educational needs and disabilities. That has occurred in an environment of austerity; one that has seen a crisis in funding for children with special educational needs. As we discussed in the previous debate, local authority children’s services are currently overspending by £800 million. It was reported last November, for instance, that council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities has trebled in just three years.
The Minister might be aware that the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland released a report in January on the use of restrictive intervention. The report found that 88% of parents surveyed said that their disabled child had experienced physical restraint, and 35% said that it happened regularly. Over half the cases of physical intervention or seclusion were of children between the ages of five and 10, with one case involving a two-year-old child. It should come as no surprise that this has had a negative effect on the children’s health. Over 90% of those surveyed said that restraint had emotionally impacted their child. That physical intervention was for cases of incontinence, meltdowns and shutdowns—situations that leave children unable to communicate as they are so overloaded with emotions.
I will return quickly to the Government’s own delayed guidance. When Ministers launched the consultation, they stated that any guidelines would not apply to mainstream schools. This is clearly illogical. Guidance must apply across the board, not just in specific settings. Otherwise, this suggests that mainstream schools are not safe spaces for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Will the forthcoming guidance be universal, so that all children are protected?
I would now like to move on to the treatment of young people who are autistic or have learning disabilities or mental health conditions. Across mental health, autism and learning disability services, over 1,000 young people were subject to a restrictive intervention in 2017-18. That accounted for 26,000 separate restrictive interventions. What is shocking is that the under-20s in these services who are subject to any restrictive intervention are, on average, subject to more than twice as many as those in any other age group. There are also hundreds of young people who are subjected to seclusion, segregation and—perhaps most worryingly—chemical restraint. We are drugging these young people because their behaviour is deemed to be too challenging. That is not acceptable. I know that the Care Quality Commission is currently carrying out a review of the use of restraint in these services, but it will not report until next year.
Currently 250 young people who are autistic or have learning disabilities are being detained in inappropriate care settings that were covered by the Transforming Care programme. That programme was intended to move people out of inappropriate settings and back into the community. Since 2015, however, the number of young people in such institutions has more than doubled. Some of these children have been sent more than 100 km from home. Ministers have recognised that this is wrong, but they have not yet done anything to stop it. Moreover, the programme expired last Sunday. Can the Minister therefore tell us what plans there are either to continue the work or to introduce a new programme to close inappropriate care settings? What funding will be made available in the next five years, given that the Government have committed to funding only an additional year of the programme?
What happens in early childhood has a defining impact on human development, affecting everything from educational achievement to economic security and health. Violence towards children can leave a long, irrevocable shadow over their lives. There can be no place for it anywhere. I therefore hope that the Minister will take the contributions made to heart.
I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to this debate, which included some powerful contributions. The personal testimony from the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan) was telling, because the wonderful news is that her son is now at university. The Minister should note that, because not only will early intervention and positive behaviour support being embedded in the entire system give people the chance of a good life, but the state will save a fortune. That is why it is so important.
We need the guidance. It needs to have teeth and to be backed by proper accredited training and by mandatory recording and reporting across the system. The Government need to get on with that now, because we must end the scandal of children not being protected from abuse in the way that adults and those in health settings already are. It is unacceptable that children in residential schools and in other settings are not protected. As the shadow Minister said, the guidance must be comprehensive. There is no justification for leaving out some settings, such as mainstream schools. The guidance should apply to everyone.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House calls on the Department for Education to urgently issue guidance on reducing the use of restrictive intervention of children and young people; and further calls on Ofsted to change its guidance to inspectors to recognise the importance of seeking to avoid the use of those interventions with children and young people.