Embedding children's rights: position statement

The report sets out the progress made in relation to children's rights in Scotland since 2016.

5. Violence Against Children

Relevant UNCRC Articles: 19, 24(3), 28(2), 34, 37(a), 39

This cluster group focuses on violence against children including abuse and neglect and the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

5.1 Equal Protection from Assault

LOIPR request: 21(a) and (c) prohibiting corporal punishment and promoting non-violent forms of discipline.

The Scottish Government supported the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 during its passage through the Scottish Parliament. The Act, which came fully into force on 7 November 2020, removed the common law defence of "reasonable chastisement" from the law of Scotland, essentially making all forms of physical punishment of children by a parent or carer unlawful in Scotland from that date.

The Scottish Government has provided information on the Act in a factsheet, including in an easy read version on the Parent Club website. We have also prepared promotional materials for parents, carers, and children and young people. In addition, the Scottish Government ran a marketing campaign and developed digital resources for families to promote positive parenting in line with its commitment to provide support to parents and carers as part of implementation work for the Act.

Corporal punishment is prohibited in Scotland's schools, by virtue of Section 16(1) of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000. The Scottish Government has invested in a number of approaches and provided guidance for local authorities, schools and staff as part of our wider approach to promoting positive relationships and behaviour. This includes the publication of revised guidance, Included, Engaged and Involved Part 1 (2019), which sets out how to promote engagement and motivation, including among those who may be at risk of poor attendance due to behaviour in school. In June 2017, we also published revised guidance, Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2, to support schools, communities and their partners to keep all children and young people fully included, engaged and involved in their education; and to improve outcomes for all Scotland's children and young people.

Scottish Government guidance Developing a Positive Whole School Ethos and Culture: Relationships, Learning and Behaviour (2018) supports schools in achieving a shared understanding of inclusion, wellbeing, equity and equality underpinned by children's rights.

5.2 Child Protection

LOIPR request: 19(b), 22(a)-(d) and (f) addressing violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, and ensuring child-friendly and multisectoral interventions.

Guidelines in Scotland stipulate that concerns about possible child abuse, neglect or exploitation should always be shared with police officers or social workers.

The non-statutory National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021) describes responsibilities and expectations for all involved in protecting children in Scotland. The Guidance sets out how agencies should work together with parents, families and communities to prevent and protect children from harm caused by abuse and neglect, to ensure that all children receive the right help at the right time. The Guidance firmly locates child protection within the wider context of The Promise, UNCRC, GIRFEC and family support. It also underlines the importance of assessing the impact of all structural factors including poverty and poorhousing as part of all care and protection planning. The intention is to further support more holistic approaches that reduce stressors in families and communities to help reduce the risk of harm to children.

Following publication of the Guidance, local areas began the work of considering how to adapt and change local guidance, procedures and practice to align with the revised national guidance and then subsequently implement those adaptations and changes. An implementation steering group has been established to provide strategic oversight and offer support to local areas.

5.3 Child Sexual Exploitation

The UK ratified the Council of Europe (Lanzarote) Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in 2018. In 2020, the Scottish Government published a Report outlining the work delivered since 2016 in taking forward Scotland's National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, as well as continued efforts through Government supported work streams across Health, Justice, Equalities, Education and Policing.

The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021) provides updated information on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (CSAE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) to support local areas in developing effective, evidenced-based responses. In addition, the Scottish Government continues our funding commitments to strengthen early intervention and prevention to better protect children and young people in Scotland from abuse and neglect.

We are also continuing to work with policing partners on our enforcement strategy, including through our standing membership of the Multi-Agency Preventing Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Group. We will also continue to work closely with the third sector on awareness raising, upstream interventions and victim support work, including though ongoing funding arrangements with a range of external partners.

The Scottish Government's response is also supported by a range of actions in a number of interconnected areas, including Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy, the Cyber Resilience Learning and Skills Action Plan, Scotland's Digital Strategy, the National Internet Safety Action Plan, the Curriculum for Excellence, Equally Safe Strategy, Child Protection Improvement Programme, delivery of the proposals of the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People, the Chief Medical Officer's Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce, as well as the passing of the Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020, the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence)(Scotland) Act 2019, and the Redress for Survivors (Historical Abuse in Care)(Scotland) Act 2021.

The Scottish Government recognises that working with the public to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation is vital. In February 2022, a new Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Hub was launched on the Parent Club website. This followed a similar successful national communications campaign in March 2021, focused on helping parents and carers spot the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation and which reached hundreds of thousands of Scots.

5.4 Online Safety

Also in February 2022, to correspond with Safer Internet Day, the Scottish Government launched a major new online safety public awareness campaign, which was aimed at advising the parents and carers of children aged 8-11 on how to help keep children safer online. This reached around 1 million Scots, including 92% of parents and carers of children in that age group. Of those taking part in an online evaluation survey, more than nine out of ten participants who were aware of the campaign reported taking action as a result of it. As part of the campaign, we launched a new Online Safety Hub on the Scottish Government's Parent Club website.

The Scottish Government welcomes UK Government efforts to improve online regulation and better protect children in the digital world through the Online Safety Bill, introduced in the UK Parliament in March 2022. This legislation must make a genuine difference to the safety of children online. The Scottish Government will continue to engage with the UK Government and work with stakeholders on this important legislation.

5.5 Vulnerable Witnesses

LOIPR request: 22(e) protecting child victims and witnesses throughout legal proceedings.

The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence)(Scotland) Act 2019 is designed to embed a presumption towards the pre-recording of evidence from child and deemed vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases except where it is shown that this would significantly prejudice the interests of justice. Implementation of specific provisions means that child witnesses in many of the most serious criminal cases now have their evidence pre-recorded, avoiding the trauma of them having to give evidence at trials. Further implementation of the Act will extend these provisions to a wider cohort of child witnesses.

The enhanced use of pre-recorded evidence for child witnesses has been backed by Scottish Government funding, as has the establishment of new evidence and hearings suites in Glasgow and at the Inverness Justice Centre. These facilities have been specifically designed for the needs of children and other vulnerable witnesses, enabling evidence to be taken in a safe and secure environment. Both evidence suites showcase what can be achieved for vulnerable witnesses through the use of high-quality video recording equipment. Further work is also being undertaken in Edinburgh and Aberdeen to expand provision there.

Barnahus/Bairns' Hoose

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that every child referred to a Bairns' Hoose, who has been a victim or witness of abuse or violence, as well as children under the age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm, will be able to access its services. We will be establishing a governance framework to drive forward delivery.

The Bairns' Hoose - Scottish Barnahus: Vision, Values and Approach (2022) sets out our vision of how the Barnahus model should be implemented in Scotland, the values which should underpin the model and our approach to its practical implementation. In addition, the Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Care Inspectorate report, Foundations for Bairns' Hoose (Scottish Barnahus), outlines the developments in national policy, practice and research which form the foundations of the development of a national Bairns' Hoose model in Scotland.

We are working with partners to develop a rights-based Scottish approach to establishing a national Bairns' Hoose model, which reflects all relevant policy and legislative developments across children's services, justice, health and social care in Scotland. This will be based on the requirements of the UNCRC, and in line with the Scottish Government's policy programmes of Keep The Promise and Getting it right for every child, which seek to recognise that all children must receive the right help at the right time. We have commissioned Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Care Inspectorate to develop Scotland-specific standards for Barnahus based on the European PROMISE Quality Standards, which reflect best practice from the Nordic countries. These will be published in early 2023. A consultation on the Draft Standards commenced on 15 August 2022 and closed on 4 November 2022.

Scottish Ministers appointed Val de Souza in February 2022 as Chair of the National Bairns' Hoose Governance Group. The focus of the Group will be to provide the necessary specialist input and strategic governance to support the development and shape the testing and piloting of an evidence-based, comprehensive, child-friendly national Bairns' Hoose model for Scotland, with oversight for the Scottish Bairns' Hoose Standards implementation.

Joint Investigative Interviews

The Scottish Government continues to fund and work with justice and social work agencies to: improve the quality of experience of child victims and witnesses; minimise re-traumatisation; and improve the quality of evidence and process for Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) with vulnerable child witnesses through the piloting of the new trauma-informed Scottish Child Interview Model (SCIM).

The SCIM delivers an interview process that secures the child's best evidence at the earliest opportunity and minimises the risk of re-traumatisation. From April 2021, the National JII Project began a national roll-out plan for SCIM, aiming to introduce the Model for joint investigative interviewing in every area of Scotland over a three year period. The roll-out is supported by £2 million in Scottish Government funding, which was announced on 30 September 2021. Oversight of the delivery and continued evaluation of the national roll-out is being undertaken through the COSLA/ Police Scotland chaired National JII Governance Group.

5.6 Gender-Based Violence

LOIPR request: 22(a) addressing domestic violence, gender-based violence and abuse.

The Scottish Government and COSLA's Equally Safe Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, sets out a vision to work with stakeholders to prevent violence from occurring in the first place, build the capability and capacity of mainstream and specialist services to support survivors and those at risk, and strengthen the justice response to victims and perpetrators. A refresh of the Strategy and accompanying Delivery Plan will be published in late 2023. Stakeholder engagement to inform the up-coming refresh will be extensive and will ensure that the voices of those with lived experience, including children and young people, inform each and every step of the process.

In June 2022, the Scottish Government and COSLA published a new short-term Equally Safe Delivery Plan, which will run until autumn 2023. The Plan includes a range of actions relevant to children and young people, including prevention within schools and ensuring more effective, trauma-informed support for children and young people affected by violence against women and girls (VAWG). A previous Equally Safe Delivery Plan ran from 2017 to 2021. The Final Report, published in November 2020, provides an overview of progress made since the publication of the Delivery Plan and actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are investing significant levels of funding to support our efforts to combat violence against women. For example, within the first 100 days of the current term of this Government, in August 2021, new funding totalling £5 million went to Rape Crisis centres and domestic abuse services to deal with increasing waiting list demand.

Our Delivering Equally Safe (DES) Fund provides £38 million over two years supporting 121 projects from 112 organisations that focus on early intervention, prevention and support services. Through the DES Fund, the Scottish Government supports 12 organisations to focus solely on children and young people projects and support. Additionally, £2 million is provided for organisations and joint organisation partnerships to deliver the Safe and Together model and training across 11 local authority areas. The Safe and Together model is a positive approach to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children living with domestic abuse. Additionally, the Scottish Government has invested approximately £1 million towards CEDAR (Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery) projects, a group work model for children who have experienced domestic abuse.

An independent strategic review of funding to tackle violence against women and girls is underway and will report its recommendations by March 2023. The principal role of the review is to develop a more consistent, coherent, collective, and stable funding model that will ensure high quality, accessible specialist services across Scotland for women, children and young people experiencing any form of violence against women and girls.

The Equally Safe at School project was launched in August 2021. This initiative, which was developed with Zero Tolerance and Rape Crisis Scotland, applies a whole school approach to tackling gender inequality and gender-based violence in schools. This model of prevention intervention has been shown to challenge and change the attitudes that permit sexual violence, equipping and empowering young people with the knowledge they need to navigate consent and healthy relationships.

Equally Safe at School accompanies other prevention initiatives such as Young Scot's That's Not OK online resource; the national Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) resource which includes age appropriate materials for teachers delivering RSHP education to children and young people aged 3-18; and the Key Messages on Healthy Relationships and Consent (2019) for all professionals working with young people aged 11-18 years. The Scottish Government also continues to fund the Rape Crisis Scotland National Sexual Violence Prevention Programme to deliver sessions to secondary school pupils on sexual violence, consent, sexism, body image and more.

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018(2018 Act) creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that covers not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. The 2018 Act commenced in April 2019, accompanied by a public campaign to raise awareness. This new offence brings clarity for victims so they can see explicitly that what their partner or ex-partner has done to them is wrong and can be dealt with under the law.

The 2018 Act provides for a statutory aggravation where the perpetrator uses a child in committing the offence; directs behaviour at a child in committing the offence; where the child sees, hears or is present when the abuse is taking place; or where a child is likely to be adversely affected by the perpetrator's behaviour. Where the aggravation is proven, the court is required to take account of this in sentencing the offender. In 2020-21 there were 383 convictions for the offence of domestic abuse and there were 90 cases where the child aggravation was proven (just under 25% of all cases). The 2019-20 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey domestic abuse module found that around a third of respondents who reported being a victim of domestic abuse said that children were living with them at the time of the most recent incident.

Where a person is convicted, the 2018 Act also provides for the court to impose a non-harassment order, including with reference to the protection of children.

The Scottish Government has also developed the Domestic Abuse Awareness Raising Tool (daart), a free online resource which was developed to raise awareness and support public service understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse and coercive control.

Ratification of the Istanbul Convention

The UK Government announced the formal ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, in July 2022. The Convention is a legally binding instrument, and as a matter of international law, creates a wide-ranging legal framework and approach to combating violence against women and girls. The UK Government is applying two reservations to its ratification. The Scottish Government welcomes the fact that the UK has ratified the Convention, but is concerned about the reservation applied by the UK Government to Article 59, which protects migrant victims of domestic abuse. This is discussed further in the Scottish Government's standalone Position Statement on the Universal Periodic Review (October 2022).

5.7 Honour-Based Violence

LOIPR request: 23(a) preventing and prosecuting honour-based violence.

So-called "honour-based violence" (HBV) covers a range of behaviours including Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Honour-based violence is directly referenced in the Equally Safe Delivery Strategy, in recognition that these practices abuse the human rights of women and girls and are a form of gender-based violence. An HBV working group comprising stakeholders from the statutory, third and academic sectors has been established to inform the Scottish Government's work on this issue.

FGM has been expressly illegal in Scotland since 1985. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) increased protection by extending, as a matter of Scots law, the FGM offences to capture conduct of United Kingdom nationals or residents which is undertaken outside of the United Kingdom. The Act also increased the maximum sentence on conviction on indictment from 5 to 14 years imprisonment. The Scottish Government has worked collaboratively with the UK Government to amend the 2005 Act to extend the reach of extraterritorial offences in the Act to habitual (as well as permanent) UK residents. This was achieved via the Serious Crime Act 2015, which was passed by the UK Parliament, and which amended the 2005 Act (with the consent of the Scottish Parliament).

In March 2020, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance)(Scotland) Act 2020 (2020 Act). This new legislation provides for FGM Protection Orders and for the issuing of Statutory Guidance by the Scottish Ministers. We are working with stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of the 2020 Act and will begin developing statutory guidance in spring 2023.

The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction)(Scotland) Act 2011 provides civil remedies for those at risk of forced marriage, and those who have already been forced into marriage. The Act introduced a civil Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) to protect people who are threatened with, or who are already in, a forced marriage. It is a criminal offence to breach an FMPO.

To extend protection for those at risk, the Scottish Government worked collaboratively with the UK Government to criminalise forcing someone into marriage. The relevant legislation is contained in section 122 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This provides an additional layer of protection for victims from a practice that is often accompanied by physical, financial, sexual, and emotional abuse. The Scottish Government also commissioned independent research into Forced Marriage in Scotland. A final research report Understanding Forced Marriage in Scotland was published in 2017.

The Scottish Government funds a number of organisations for projects related to violence against women and girls through our Equally Safe Fund and has invested in a range of projects that have a specific FGM and honour-based violence focus.

Virginity Testing and Hymenoplasty

The practices of virginity testing and of hymenoplasty have been criminalised in Scotland with the Scottish Parliament consenting to the provisions in the UK's Health and Care Act 2022, which criminalise the practices, applying to Scotland. To date, there is no evidence of such practices taking place in Scotland, however there are clear benefits to all four nations in the UK having a joined-up approach to the issue.

5.8 Intersex Children and Young People

LOIPR request: 23(b) preventing unnecessary medical or surgical treatment of intersex children.

The National Scottish Differences of Sex Development Managed Clinical Network has a remit to look at equity of care across Scotland. The Network aims to support the delivery of high-quality person-centred care to children and adolescents with differences of sex development in Scotland. This well-established clinical network comprises of multi-disciplinary teams (MDT) in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh. The range of health care professionals from across different specialities can vary depending on local expertise, however there is an exchange of professionals between the three centres ensuring that clinical input from paediatric endocrinology, urology, genetics, biochemistry, clinical psychology, gynaecology, plastic surgery, and paediatric nursing is available as required. Clinical recommendations about a child's treatment are fully considered by the MDTs prior to a formal consultation with the family.

A holistic approach is taken to deliver positive health, care, and wellbeing outcomes. Surgery within NHS Scotland should only be undertaken where medically necessary, for example, where there is an obstruction, or the variation of sex development has resulted in a high cancer risk. The views of the child (or the parents if the child is too young to express a view) are a crucial part of final decision making process about their treatment or surgery if medically necessary.

5.9 Use of Children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources

LOIPR request: 22(h) preventing the recruitment of children as informants.

The Scottish Government is considering whether specific measures to prevent the use of children as informants for law enforcement are necessary. Additional safeguards (compared to adults) exist currently in relation to the regulatory framework for the authorisation of juvenile covert human intelligence sources.

5.10 Use of Electrical Discharge Weapons

LOIPR request: 20(a) prohibiting the use of electrical discharge weapons, spit hoods and other harmful devices on children.

Taser (Conducted Energy Device) is a less lethal option than conventional firearms which offers police officers an opportunity to defuse a potentially dangerous incident at distance, reducing the risk of injury and enabling a safer, quicker resolution. The legal authority on the use of Taser is reserved to Westminster and the decision to deploy it is an operational matter for the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

Prior to June 2018, only authorised firearms officers were equipped with Taser. In response to an increase in assaults on officers, the decision was taken to introduce Specially Trained Officers (STOs) in the use of Taser. There are 975 STOs, around 5.6% of total police numbers, trained in the use of these devices, although not all will be on duty at the same time. These officers have undergone rigorous training, including scenarios linked to vulnerable people and protected characteristic groups. A number of factors are highlighted in the training which may influence the operational use of Taser; these include children and vulnerable people.

The use of Taser is subject to rigorous monitoring and review with every discharge referred to the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) who may decide to carry out an independent investigation into the incident. Since 2018, a Taser has been discharged at a child, in 5 incidents, the youngest of whom was 15 years old. All 5 children were removed to hospital as a precaution in line with policy. All 5 incidents were referred to PIRC and, after assessment, PIRC decided not to investigate any of the incidents.

Use of Spit Hoods

The Scottish Government supports the need to protect police officers' safety but considers that this must be done in a way that respects the rights of individuals who come into contact with the police. Police Scotland are not prescriptive about where, when and on whom spit hoods should be used. Spit hoods are applied on the discretion of the officers/staff involved and only in circumstances where the actions of the subject are such that they represent a significant risk to the safety of the officer/staff. Officers/staff are accountable for their actions and must be able to justify their actions by demonstrating that the use of the spit hood was reasonable, proportionate (in the circumstances) and absolutely necessary (to achieve a lawful objective).

Spit hoods are used infrequently by Police Scotland and are subject to robust recording measures through the custody system. Police Scotland will continue to ensure that the use of spit hoods is closely monitored and that there is appropriate guidance on the need for proportionality and necessity.

Tasers, attenuating energy projectiles, spit hoods and other similar harmful devices or mechanical restraints are never used in secure care in Scotland. Spit hoods and tasers are also not used in the Scottish Prisons Service.

5.11 Use of Restraint

LOIPR request: 20(b) and (c) pain-inducing techniques and restraint.

Guidance and training are in place for staff in education, custody, mental health and care settings with reference to controlling and limiting the use of restraint. Any use of restraint must be carried out with regard to the welfare of the child. The use of restraint should always be a last resort in exceptional circumstances when it is the only practicable means of securing the welfare or safety of the child or another person.


Pain inducing techniques cannot be used for disciplinary purposes in Scotland's schools. Furthermore, the use of physical restraint is limited to acts taken to prevent the immediate danger of harm and, in limited circumstances, to protect property.[21]

Current guidance Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: A Positive Approach to Preventing and Managing School Exclusions, refreshed in 2017, outlines practice in relation to physical intervention (restraint) and seclusion for all children, including children with complex additional support needs, including those arising from learning disabilities. The guidance outlines safeguards that govern the use of physical intervention and seclusion and places an emphasis on early intervention, positive relationships and behaviour and children and young people's rights. All education authorities are required to have a policy in place to guide practice at a local level. The guidance requires that any incident where a decision is made to physically intervene must be formally recorded and monitored in line with the local authority's policy on de-escalation, physical intervention, and restraint. As part of their scrutiny and improvement roles in schools, Education Scotland inspectors consider the impact of practice in relation to the use of physical intervention, including restraint, for children and young people.

The Scottish Government is developing new rights-based guidance in this area. A public consultation on draft physical intervention in schools guidance closed in October 2022 and the Scottish Government is currently analysing the response. The draft guidance is clear that restraint and seclusion should only ever be used as a last resort and when it is necessary to secure the welfare or safety of the child or another person. The draft guidance follows from our agreement with the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2019 that non-statutory guidance be developed as a first step to improve practice in this area.

The draft guidance has been developed carefully, over time, with extensive input from over thirty working group members and partners, including the Children's Commissioner, young people, parents, staff, local government and third sector organisations. It reflects the latest advice within the National Guidance for Child Protection, commitments in The Promise Implementation Plan and is compliant with the Human Rights Act (1998), UNCRC and UNCRPD rights.

We will work closely with partners, following final publication of the guidance, to ensure this is followed. Alongside the guidance, we will explore options to strengthen the legal framework in this area.

Residential and Secure Care

The National Care standards that cover care homes for children and young people

and school care accommodation set out that the care home/school must have a written policy and procedures on the conditions where restraint may be used. They also require that staff are fully trained and supported in the use of restraint. If it is necessary to restrain a child, it must be recorded in their care plan. Records of all restraints are kept and monitored, both by external management and the regulatory body. These standards are inspected against by the Care Inspectorate at least once per year, they are also currently considering updating inspection processes to ask for specific evidence of the efforts of services to minimise the use of physical restraint.

The Holding Safely, A Guide for Residential Child Care Practitioners and Managers about Physically Restraining Children and Young People (2005) was updated in 2013 with guidance on minimising the use of physical restraint in Scotland's residential childcare establishments, including the monitoring and collection of data on any occasions where children and young people have been physically restrained. This guidance will continue to be reviewed in line with the Promise. Young people in residential and secure care will only be physically restrained by trained care staff when: they are behaving in an unsafe or dangerous way; there is a serious risk of harm to themselves or another person; and there is no other effective way of keeping the young person or others safe. If it is necessary to physically restrain a young person, they will only be restrained for the shortest time possible, using as little force as necessary. No mechanical restraints are used in residential and secure care.

After a physical restraint and when the young person is ready, care staff will speak to the young person about the restraint, taking account of the young person's view to try to better understand why it happened and minimise the need for restraint in the future. Staff will ask the young person how they are feeling, and if necessary, the young person will be seen by a nurse. Full written details of the incident, including the young person's comments, will be recorded by the unit and copied into the young person's care plan. The young person will receive help to contact an advocacy worker (for example a children's rights officer or Who Cares? Scotland worker) or to make a complaint, if they wish.

The Care Inspectorate, the independent scrutiny and improvement body for care services in Scotland, carries out at least one inspection of every residential and secure care homes each year, and restraint procedures are part of the inspection process. The Care Inspectorate gathers information on all incidents where a child is restrained, and reviews selected cases to ensure staff carrying out the restraint are fully trained and best practices were followed.

Scottish Prison Service (SPS)

Staff within the Scottish Prison Service are trained in the management of violence and aggression in custody, including the use of de-escalation techniques, non-aversive behavioural management, and the use of physical interventions, when these are deemed necessary and proportionate. The primary aim of any intervention is to gain rapid control of the situation, while avoiding the use of physical interventions. This includes the use of communication, active listening, de-escalation, and space to control the environment and gain the willing co-operation of the person in distress. The Use of Force (physical interventions) will only be considered when all other approaches have been attempted and found to be unsuccessful for that situation.

Training consists of an initial seven-day foundation course, split into theoretical teaching modules and practical skills, and an annual refresher.

All Use of Force incidents must be recorded on a 'Use of Force Report,' providing details of the situation, which techniques were used, why these were deemed necessary and what the outcome of this use was. Every report is analysed by a manger with the view of proactively identifying ways to reduce the use of restraint in the future. All records are made available to HM Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland, for auditing and monitoring purposes.

Currently the SPS is working towards the implementation of a new physical interventions curriculum, replacing current techniques with a curriculum built on the use of non-pain inducing restraints. This work includes the development of a restraint reduction framework, developed to proactively reduce the need for physical interventions. An SPS Steering group leads this project, with initial implementation anticipated for late 2022 in the form of a pilot roll-out, which will include young people in custody.

Mental Health

Regarding the use of restraint in mental health settings, the Scottish Government is clear that alternatives to physical restraint should always be considered first, and the use of physical restraint should only ever be a last resort, for the shortest period of time, to ensure safety. Health Boards should ensure that they have policies in place covering all forms of restrictive practice and that staff receive appropriate training.


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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