Report Shows Phased Closure Of Children’s Residences Needed
A review of the use of seclusion and restraint on
children and young people in detention shows the urgent need
for the phased closure of New Zealand’s four large care
and protection residences, and the reduced use and eventual
abolition of the four youth justice detention centres,
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft
“It also emphasises that we must stop using seclusion and restraint on distressed children and young people,” Commissioner Becroft says.
“These facilities, and the legal basis of seclusion and restraint, have their origins in the children’s homes and borstals of last century. They are out-dated and have no place in the provision of compassionate, therapeutic care.”
A report published by the Human Rights Commission by Sharon Shalev of Oxford University, found that the use of seclusion in the youth justice residence reviewed had doubled since Dr Shalev’s 2016 report, while seclusion in the care and protection residence reviewed had declined slightly. She found seclusion rooms were inappropriate, ran counter to the principles of Tikanga Māori, their use should stop, and alternatives should be urgently sought.
“This report raises profound concerns about the treatment of children and young people in New Zealand’s four youth justice, and four care and protection detention centres, known as ‘secure residences’”, Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children, Glenis Philip-Barbara says.
“For most New Zealanders these residences are invisible, and they operate below our radar. Most staff do their conscientious best but in the context of a flawed model. Some of the treatment and conditions these children and young people are subjected to are plainly unacceptable, as this report and our residential monitoring shows. These children experience more restrictions on their freedom than almost any of us.
“These restrictions have particularly severe implications for Māori, who are both more likely to be in residences and, Dr Shalev says, the potential harm may be even worse for Māori children.
“Our office has long advocated for the phased closure of secure care and protection residences and the dramatically reduced reliance on youth justice residences. In a future without secure residences, whānau, hapū, iwi and wider family groups and specialised community-based approaches would be resourced and supported to care for children and young people,” Ms Glenis Philip-Barbara says.
“Sadly, what we often find is the residences themselves provoke the distressed behaviour that the use of seclusion and restraint is supposed to manage. None of us would want our own children to live in these places, and we should demand the closure of large, institutional residences. In the meantime, seclusion rooms must be radically improved in line with the recommendations in Dr Shalev’s report,” Commissioner Becroft says.