Edinburgh secure accommodation: Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton writes to minister calling for urgent action

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Scottish Lib Dem leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has written to the the Scottish Government’s Minister for Children and Young People calling for urgent action after the damning report on the city council’s secure accommodation.

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An internal council investigation found “illegality, maladministration and injustice” in the running of the two homes, Howdenhall and St Katharine’s, by Edinburgh Secure Services, a section of the authority’s Children and Families department.

The confidential report is understood to highlight inappropriate restraint, assaults on young people, abusive language, children being isolated and a toxic management culture. It is also said to refer to children with bruised faces and children with burn marks after being restrained. The incidents date back more than a decade but continued up to the end of 2019.

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In his letter to Clare Haughey, Mr Cole-Hamilton asked what plans the minster had to support the victims and ensure the mistakes that led to the abuse are not repeated.

He said: "The findings of this investigation are absolutely harrowing to read.

"The young people living in secure accommodation are amongst the most vulnerable in our city and it is completely unacceptable that they have had to suffer in this way at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for them.

"It is vital that action is taken immediately to ensure that the victims and survivors of this terrible treatment are given all the support they need. The failures that led to this situation must be identified to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

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The confidential report highlighted 'serious failings' in Edinburgh's secure accommodation.The confidential report highlighted 'serious failings' in Edinburgh's secure accommodation.
The confidential report highlighted 'serious failings' in Edinburgh's secure accommodation.

The investigation – which follows last year’s Tanner report into whistleblowing and the organisational culture of the council – found “failings at all levels of management”.

The report by the council’s monitoring officer Nick Smith was due to be discussed at the full council meeting on Thursday, and Conservatives had tabled a motion of no confidence in council chief executive Andrew Kerr, but councillors voted not to debate the report or the motion. The item had not been reached by the 5pm cut-off time when the standing orders require remaining issues to be voted on without debate. A motion to suspend standing orders and allow a debate was defeated by 36 votes to 19.

The report makes a series of detailed recommendations on issues such as restraint and physical intervention, allegations and complaints, recruitment, use of locum staff, quality assurance, culture and practice and management oversight.

In his letter to the minister, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I am writing to express my concerns at the serious failings revealed by the internal investigation by Edinburgh City Council into the city’s secure accommodation for young people.

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“I have no doubt that you will share my alarm and concern at the harrowing accounts detailed in the report. So I’m writing to you to ask what plans you have to support the victims and survivors of this awful abuse, to ensure they are given all the support they need and to ask what plans you have to ensure no young person living in secure accommodation ever has to suffer this treatment again.”

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