Mentally ill children being treated like criminals

According to a report on Radio 4’s The World at the Weekend, children as young as 11 are being detained in police custody cells despite having not committed any crime, instead showing signs of mental illness.

A report was conducted on detainment of 347 children under the age of 18, two of these children, it was reported were kept in police cells for over 24 hours after police officers were called to deal with mentally ill children. The police apparently have no other realist option other than to detain them.

According to figures obtained by the Radio 4 programme through Freedom of Information requests, there is certain legislation under the Mental Health Act that allows the detention of mentally ill children in a ‘place of safety’ for up to 72 hours. Children are usually held to make assessments into their mental wellbeing. Assessments would be held in a hospital or care home, but police stations are also permitted under the Act.

According to the report, of the 42 police forces in England and Wales that provided data, 35 held children under the age of 18 in custody under the Mental Health Act in the last 12 months.

The Department of Health has reported that they have invested £54 million over the four years to 2014-15 to improve the mental health care that is provided to children and young people.

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