Restraining vulnerable children in schools must be last resort: Willie Rennie

A “dramatic cut” in the use of restraint on disabled schoolchildren has been demanded by the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.

Willie Rennie told MSPs vulnerable youngsters are being physically and mentally harmed by restraint practices in schools “that may be illegal”.

He said that was the conclusion of a recent report by Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, which found that more than 2,600 such incidents were recorded in classrooms in one year.

Willie Rennie
Willie Rennie

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will respond to the report and changes would be made if required.

Citing the report at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Rennie asked her: “A child with a mental age of three was left traumatised and distraught after being locked in a school cloakroom.

“There are reports of children being tied to chairs, prevented from going to the toilet and being dragged across the floor, causing injury.

“These children’s voices are often not heard so it’s important for us to speak up for them.

“The Children’s Commissioner said the Government is not complying with the advice from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“The commissioner said that guidance is inconsistent and ambiguous and he is not certain that restraint is used as a last resort.

“So will she take the advice of the Children’s Commissioner and dramatically cut the use of restraint on vulnerable disabled children in Scotland?”

Ms Sturgeon said the Government would respond to the commissioner by the end of the week.

She said the guidance currently in place is clear about the importance of de-escalation in situations where restraint may be considered, and that restraint should only be used as a last resort.

FM says she's committed to implementing international standards on children's rights two hours after her MSPs voted to defy international standards on the age of criminal responsibility 🤔 #FMQs

— Scottish Lib Dems (@scotlibdems) January 31, 2019

“Of course we will respond to the commissioner and if there is a view that changes are required, we will make those changes,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We will continue to take whatever action is necessary to support a system overall in Scotland, not just in the cases that Willie Rennie is citing here, that is respectful of children’s rights and puts children’s interests at the very heart of everything that we do.”

She said ministers have given a commitment to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.

“That’s an important indication of how seriously we take these issues and where we fall short, as all governments will from time to time, then what is important is that we recognise that and take the action to rectify it,” Ms Sturgeon added.