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Ban on using cells for children in mental health crisis

A Commons home affairs committee report on mental health illness within the criminal justice system is highly critical of the continued use of police cells for children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis and lack of available alternative places of safety.

It says that NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are failing to commission appropriate “places of safety” at local hospitals for children. 

The committee welcomes a joint announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May and care minister Norman Lamb last year calling for the use of police cells for this vulnerable group of young people to stop.

The committee wants the next Queen’s Speech to reform section 136 of the Mental Health Act (1983) to ensure police cells are no longer a legal designated place of safety for children.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said: “The detention of children with mental health issues in police cells must cease immediately. Last year, 236 children were detained in a police cell under section 136. NHS places must be made available for children locally.”

YoungMinds chief executive Sarah Brennan called for appropriate funding in mental health services to ensure enough spaces are made available for young people. 

She said: “We desperately need fully resourced, locally based, appropriate provision which fully meets the needs of children and young people undergoing the truly frightening experience of a mental health crisis.”