Behind closed doors

Focusing on the mental health and well-being of detained children.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has a statutory duty to promote and protect the rights of all children in England. This duty extends to children within the criminal justice system. The Commissioner also chairs the Children’s Sub-Group of the National Preventative Mechanism, so has a role in independently monitoring custodial conditions for Children in England and Wales to strengthen the protection of children deprived of their liberty. The Commissioner undertakes a rolling programme of visits to Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) and Secure Training Centres (STCs) where she speaks to children and staff to keep abreast of issues children are experiencing.

Over the past 12 months an issue of concern raised during these visits has been the use of segregation, with reports of some children spending up to 23.5 hours in a cell each day, for days and sometimes weeks on end. This practice would appear to contravene Articles 37 and 40 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child2. In response to this information, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) undertook to collect data from all YOIs and STCs about their use of segregation.

Read our report on the use of segregation in youth custody in England.

We are also concerned that the wider system around inpatient hospital placements for children is opaque.  In order to increase confidence that children at high risk are getting the services they need, we will continue to work with NHS Digital and NHS England to improve data collection and transparency and will publish a comprehensive list of the in-patient mental health units treating England’s most vulnerable children.