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Mental health support must be made a priority for young offenders, according to Holyrood’s justice committee.

The committee called for assessments to be made within the first days of each youngster’s move into secure care or a young offenders institution (YOI).

Consistent, high-quality physical, educational and mental health support should then be provided, the MSPs said.

The Scottish government said it would “carefully consider” the committee’s recommendations.

Evidence given to the committee during its inquiry showed that more than 60% of young people who offended had significant speech, language and communication needs, and significant numbers also self-harmed or had attempted suicide.

Despite this, it found there was a “postcode lottery” in the provision of child and adolescent mental health support, particularly in secure care units outside Glasgow.

‘Traumatic childhoods’

There was also a call for more flexibility to be introduced into the system to allow teenagers the opportunity to stay in a secure care unit beyond their 18th birthday, if this was found to be in their best interests.

At present, teenagers held in secure care units must move to HMP YOI Polmont when they turn 18 even if they only have a short period left.

Committee convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said: “We know that many young offenders and people in secure care have themselves had traumatic childhoods, and have lived through adverse childhood experiences.

“Every effort must be made to ensure that these often vulnerable young people, who are in the care of the state, are in a safe environment, where they are provided with, and take, opportunities to rehabilitate.

“Sadly we are currently not achieving this in all cases, sometimes with the most tragic consequences.”



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