“Mental ill health most significant healthcare issue for youth offenders.”

A report published today by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Communities and Culture committee has found that “the most significant healthcare issue for juvenile offenders from Wales is mental ill-health”.

The report, “Youth Justice: The experience of Welsh children in the Secure Estate”, broadly recommends devolving part of the juvenile justice system, warned that children and young people were often “demonised” and stressed that AMs wanted to challenge the public perception of young offenders and dispel the ‘hoodie’ stereotypes.

With specific reference to mental health, the report found that:

• The most significant healthcare issue for juvenile offenders from Wales is mental ill-health.

• Mental health services for young people who offend are failing to support them and their needs are not being addressed.

• Evidence suggests providing key mental health support to young people on their release and as part of the resettlement programme is a key area.

To illustrate the depth of the problem the Committee quoted from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons who stated in their evidence that because there were no children and adolescent mental health services at Parc prison, Bridgend, “a small number of young people who had acute needs and needed that service were moved to England. So, some of the most vulnerable children in the system were being moved the furthest away.”

The Committee was told by Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, that much more work needs to be done if the high level of mental ill-health amongst juvenile offenders to be addressed.

Mr Towler said: “The principal issue that I have become concerned about in my time as commissioner is the provision of child and adolescent mental health services. I have had several promises of level 2 and 3 CAMHS provision being made available at Parc prison. The staff at Parc keep asking why this is not happening. It is in the gift of the Welsh Assembly Government to make this happen.

“When I went to Ashfield (an institution in Gloucestershire which accepts remand and sentenced young people between the ages of 15 and 18), I met two young people from Wales who had very challenging behaviour and there were absolutely no plans in place for them although the staff were doing the best that they could in that institution. I also met three young people from England who had similar challenging behaviour and their care plans were sorted. It was very clear who was going to fund them, what the resettlement packages looked like, and where they fitted in. It is not good enough that the same did not apply to those from Wales, it represents a fundamental breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The report made 28 recommendations, those with specific reference to mental health were the following.
Recommendation 16: We recommend that the Welsh Government make a public guarantee that tiers 2 and 3 of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) support will be made available to all children in the secure estate.

Recommendation 17: We recommend that the Welsh Government engage with local authorities towards enabling consistency over mental health psychiatric nurse support for Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). Consideration should also be given to ensuring that young people leaving the secure estate, who are not engaged with Youth Offending Teams, are able to access mental health support.

To access a PDF of the report please visit: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-guide-docs-pub/bus-business-documents/bus-business-documents-doc-laid.htm?act=dis&id=169072&ds=2/2010