Secure care teenagers ‘restrained, isolated and searched’

Beth Anne Logan

Beth-Anne Logan was just six weeks old when she was the subject of her first children’s hearing.

At 11, she went into residential care and at 13, she was put in secure care.

After struggling with her mental health as a child, her experience of a secure unit involved being restrained, isolated and searched.

She has used her difficult experience to make sure that is not the case for other vulnerable children entering the same system.

‘Good and bad’

“I was placed in secure care due to ongoing mental health problems I had since childhood.” she told BBC Scotland.

“I had made several attempts on my own life and it was deemed as the only place in Scotland that could keep me safe.”

Beth-Anne, from Airdrie, describes her experience as “a mixture of good and bad” and says that is normal for people in secure care.

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Beth-Anne Logan was involved in the care system since she was a baby

She said: “One thing they did help me do was make sure I got my exams which I am eternally grateful for but there are certain bits of practice I have experienced that I wasn’t happy with and I didn’t feel was upholding my basic human rights. That is the reason I am speaking up.

“Improper use of restraint, improper use of isolation, searches – they all had a detrimental effect on my overall wellbeing.”

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Beth-Anne is championing new national standards for secure care. It’s the first time the Scottish government has set out what support children should expect from professionals when in the community or secure care.

The standards – The Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland – were fully co-produced by young people living in secure care and those with care experience and are written from the child’s perspective. This ensures young people’s voices are heard, their rights are adhered to and they are treated with respect.

The rules mean support is provided before, during and after care and that the rights of children and young people, facing extreme vulnerabilities and risks in their lives, are respected.

‘Deprived of liberty’

For Beth-Anne, this is the reason she got involved.

She said: “The experience is very scary. You are not sure of where you are or where you are going and how secure care operates.”

She believes the care system let her down on several occasions but says it has also supported her and empowered her to become the person she is today.

“There are specific rights that need to be upheld. And things the custodians of the system can and should be doing,” she said.

“No child should grow up deprived of their liberty. No child should be locked in a cell at night. No child should be subject to personal search.”

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Liam Slaven came through secure care and then joined the Scottish Youth Parliament

Liam Slaven, from Falkirk, is also a product of the care system. He went into residential care when he was 14.

He said: “I was having trouble with school, just life really, and had made several attempts on my life. I was placed in a residential unit on voluntary order. The staff were not very supportive and they were inconsistent with their approaches. They criminalised my behaviour.”

Liam, who is now a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said this happened while he was crying out for help.

He said: “. While I was in that unit I racked up assault charges and I kept running away and I was finally placed in secure care. Secure is a very intense place to be. As a 14 or 15-year-old boy it is scary – it is one step down from young offenders.”

‘I am proud of me’

He believes his carers should have found the reasons why he was lashing out rather than putting him in a room by himself. That is why he helped the review.

He said: “I could see things happen to other people that I didn’t think was right and when I got out of secure care I strived to change things where I could and I got this opportunity to create new standards for secure care so I jumped at it.

“There’s a stigma about kids in the care system that we are bad kids but all we need is support, guidance and a bit of love.”

Beth Anne agreed: “On the whole, the system indeed has failed me in some aspects but it has also championed me, supported me and empowered me to become the person I am today and I can categorially say if I hadn’t entered the care system I wouldn’t be that person. And I am proud of me.”

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Maree Todd, minister for children and young people.

Scottish Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd told BBC Scotland: “Going into care is distressing. Some children will not be able to show their feelings or to talk about what they are going through. That is why it is important that we have systems in place that make transitions less traumatic.

“Above all our young people must feel safe, loved and cared for in a compassionate nurturing environment.”

BBC News