Charity coalition slams policies on restraint, youth justice and asylum

Staff at England’s four secure training centres used controversial techniques to restrain young people nearly 800 times in a recent 12-month period, it was revealed this week.

The nose, rib and thumb distraction restraint techniques were used 768 times in the centres, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, a coalition of more than 320 organisations.

It also shows that the three restraint measures led to 51 injuries at the centres in the same period.

The alliance slammed the techniques and called for a review of the use of restraint in custody.

The four centres – Medway, Rainsbrook, Oakhill and Hassockfield – are all privately run.

The alliance revealed the information in a report criticising the way children are treated in the UK.

But a Youth Justice Board spokesperson defended the techniques, saying they caused a “brief, sharp burst of pain”, and were only used as a “last resort to protect a young person from self-harm or to prevent them from hurting another person”.

The report also claims that the government has made significant progress in only 16 of 78 recommendations made in 2002 in a critical UN report on the UK’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The alliance also criticised the government’s treatment of young offenders, singling out antisocial behaviour measures, and policies affecting asylum-seeking children such as the Asylum Act which allows for the withdrawal of benefits from failed asylum seekers.

It also called for an immediate cross-government review of children’s law and policy in preparation for the UK’s examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2009.

The report recommends that a plan of action be prepared to show how the UK will meet its human rights obligations to children.

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