Consultant psychiatrist to oversee mental health in custody review

Consultant psychiatrist to oversee mental health in custody review

Humza Yousaf

A consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist is to oversee the independent expert review of mental health and wellbeing support for young people in custody.

Consultant forensic child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Helen Smith will work closely with the HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland and others to review support for young people in HM Prison & Young Offenders Institution Polmont.

The review is one of the actions across government which aims to improve support for vulnerable children and young people.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has also announced the scope and terms of reference of the review, in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Justice Committees.

The review will consider arrangements including:

  • The background information available to the Scottish Prison Service ahead of admission
  • Reception arrangements on entry
  • Ongoing support and supervision while in custody.

Mr Yousaf said: “This review will focus specifically on young people in custody and will draw directly on the views and lived experiences of staff, young people and their families at Polmont. It will require a wide ranging approach with a specific understanding of the particular difficulties faced by young people, so I am pleased that Dr Smith, with her considerable experience and knowledge, has been appointed to provide expert counsel.

“Any death by suicide is tragic and the impact on family and friends is unimaginable for most of us. We have made both suicide prevention and reforming young people’s mental health key priorities with a significant focus on early intervention.

“Some of this will be achieved through the Children and Young People’s Taskforce, led by Denise Coia, and the Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, chaired by Rose Fitzpatrick. However, it is imperative that we take a focused approach to addressing concerns that have been raised about support for young people in custody. This Expert Review will provide that.”

Dr Smith added: “I’m looking forward to working with HMP&YOI Polmont and NHS Forth Valley to examine the support given to vulnerable young people at a very difficult time in their lives.

“This opportunity also allows me to consider whether any lessons can be transferred between Secure Care, the Scottish Prison Service and other relevant agencies.”

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