(UK) NEW FIGURES reveal 30% of children in prison have special needs

Aug 4, 2019, Independent: Children in prison twice as likely to have special needs, figures show Children in prison are twice as likely to have special educational needs as those in the general population, new figures reveal, prompting concern that vulnerable teenagers are being let down by mainstream services. Data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reveals 30 per cent of children who entered custody over 2018-19 were assessed as having special educational needs or disabilities. Separate government data shows that less than 15 per cent of children nationally fall into this category. Experts said this discrepancy highlighted the “failure” of educational and other services to properly provide for such children in the community, and that sending them to “increasingly chaotic and violent” jails only compounded the damage caused. … The MoJ said an assessment is carried out for all children and young people on entry into custody, allowing for early identification of needs and requirements to support their care. But MPs and charities said placing these children in institutions designed for punishment was “no solution”, and that too often instead of receiving skilled support they were being “locked up behind a metal door for hours on end with little intervention or care”. … The criticism comes amid ongoing concern about the state of child prisons after the watchdog warned in 2017 that not one youth jail in England and Wales could be deemed safe following a “staggering rise” in violence across the youth justice estate. … The prisons watchdog took the unprecedented move of issuing an urgent notice to Feltham, one of the country’s largest youth jails, last month following an “extraordinary” decline in safety, care and activity for the children held there. She added: “The reality is that a very high proportion of imprisoned children who have special educational needs will have been excluded from school. A great many will have come from families struggling with poverty and a breakdown in local support services. “Sending a child who is known to have special educational needs to a seriously under-resourced institution where self-harm, physical restraint and solitary confinement are commonplace is indefensible.” … “The fact that children with special educational needs are vastly overrepresented in the custodial estate ... is a testimony to the previous failure of educational and other services to properly provide for such children in the community. … A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The number of children in youth custody has fallen by more than 70 per cent in the last decade but the public would expect young people who commit the most serious offences to face a custodial sentence. “We know those entering youth custody are vulnerable and need a range of support, which is why we are training 400 officers to degree level as youth custody specialists and investing in education and psychology services. “Our longer-term ambition is that secure schools which focus on education and healthcare will replace young offender institutions and secure training centres.”