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Children still not legally protected against restraint in schools

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A leading charity that protects the rights of people with learning disabilities in Scotland has today launched a new report asking if young people are ‘In Safe Hands Yet?’ as it claims that they ‘are still at risk of restraint and seclusion in education settings within Scotland.’

ENABLE Scotland states that draft guidance produced by the Scottish Government is not fit for purpose, and that despite high profile work on this issue since 2018, there remains a lack of training for education staff, no monitoring of the incidents of seclusion and restraint used against children in our schools, and no identified regulator responsible for monitoring its use in education.

The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to do better in safeguarding young people – particularly those with learning disabilities and/or autism who are typically most at risk of being restrained and is supporting long-time campaigner Beth Morrison launch an appeal for ‘Calum’s Law’ to protect children and young people against the use of restraint and seclusion.

Beth Morrison was propelled into the spotlight after the high-profile case of her son, Calum Morrison who was forcefully restrained in his school setting over 10 years ago. Beth has campaigned tirelessly since 2010 and has launched her intention to push for ‘Calum’s Law’ with three pivotal asks:

  • Calum’s Law wants the Scottish Government to make the current guidance statutory law ensuring the safety of children and young people in the school / education environment.
  • Calum’s Law is asking that all incidents of restraint and seclusion are recorded and feedback to parents as part of a mandated approach to the treatment of young people in the school / education environment.
  • Finally, Calum’s Law wants all teachers, support teachers and auxiliary staff to be provided with mandatory training.
In just three years, Beth took calls from over 600 families who claim their child has been the victim of seclusion and / or restraint in the school setting.

Beth said: "We have been campaigning for change now for over a decade and it’s very clear to see that the current approach to non-statutory guidance doesn’t work. In this day and age, we should have a better understanding of how to work with young people – especially those with learning disabilities – without the use of forceful restraint.

“The experience of this behaviour on young people is traumatizing. It affects their social skills, their enjoyment of school and – ironically – their subsequent behaviour at school. I think the people of Scotland will be shocked to learn that currently there is no law that protects their child being physically and forcefully restrained in school or educational settings.

Calum’s Law is being launched to finally put in place our three key points of change that we are lobbying the Government on. Statutory laws, mandatory training and a mandate to report any such incident of restraint to parents or carers.

ENABLE Scotland, a supporter of Beth’s campaign and champion for the human rights of people with learning disabilities in Scotland, has reflected on the Scottish Government’s commitment to the safeguarding of young people in its new report; ‘In Safe Hands Yet?’

Building on its 2019 campaign, In Safe Hands, the charity has stated that not enough progress has been made in the intervening three years, and is calling for urgent action to:

  • Publish statutory guidance
  • Centrally monitor and regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools
  • Introduce and mandate training for education staff in strategies to minimise the need for seclusion and restraint in schools
  • Launch a national strategy to eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint in our schools

Calum’s Law and ENABLE Scotland’s report has been launched at a roundtable hosted by the Cross Party Group on Learning Disability. Organisations from across education and children’s charities have come together with the Scottish Government to discuss how to reform current draft guidance to ensure it is fit for purpose, and to consider what opportunities MSPs may have in the Scottish Parliament to push for a solution in law.

Jan Savage, Director at Enable, said: “In simple terms, the rights of children and young people in Scotland are still not protected and it’s unacceptable. Four years after the investigation by the Children’s Commissioner, we should not still be having to ask the question are our children In Safe Hands Yet?  Draft guidance at this stage is just not good enough. Not whilst children are still being restrained.

Action is needed to protect children’s rights in law, and to set out a clear strategy for systematically reducing restraint and seclusion in Scotland to a point where it is no longer a feature of our education system in Scotland.

“We welcome the work of Beth Morrison in proposing Calum’s Law in the Scottish Parliament as a vehicle to achieving this, and to generate cross party support for change to protect children’s rights in law.”

To learn more about the 2019 ‘In Safe Hands’ campaign visit:

Read our latest report: