CHILDLINE founder Dame Esther Rantzen has backed calls for a ban on the use of restraint in Scotland’s special schools.
Mother Beth Morrison is attempting to have new guidance introduced on the use of the controversial practice, claiming her son was injured by staff at Kingspark School in Dundee.
It’s child abuse at best and, at worst, criminal assaultBeth Morrison
Police are currently carrying out an investigation into alleged abuse at the school dating from 2010, which parents say the authorities attempted to cover up.
Dame Esther said there was a need for “strong, effective and appropriate” guidelines to protect vulnerable children and young people.
She spoke out after Ms Morrison took a 5,000-signature petition to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Dame Esther said: “Children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to abuse. It is therefore vital that there are strong, effective and appropriate national guidelines to protect disabled children, and when cases of abuse occur, that these cases are properly investigated.
“I am hugely impressed by the determination shown by Beth Morrison and other families to bring this vital area for reform to the public’s attention, and for the sake of the children, I hope she succeeds. I call upon the MSPs to reform the law, and protect vulnerable children whose voices are not being heard.”
MSPs agreed to look at the issue after Ms Morrison’s appearance at the public petitions committee on Tuesday.
Ms Morrison said her son Calum, 16, who has learning difficulties, returned from school in 2010 with bruising to his arms and blood spots on his chest consistent with haemorrhaging caused by being restrained.
Police are looking into a series of allegations dating from 2010 after the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) last year ruled that officers had failed to investigate properly when concerns were first raised about the school by a parent.
The allegations have led to calls for national guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools. Petitioners want the Scottish Government to ban the use of “cruel, humiliating and painful” restraint and want the practice to be used only as a “last resort”.
They also want training for staff in how to avoid the use of restraint and for teachers and support workers to be made accountable by recording every incident which leads to a child being restrained.
Ms Morrison told MSPs that the use of restraint was “child abuse at best and, at worst, criminal assault”.
Last year a review of concerns about Kingspark carried out by Alastair Marquis, an independent education consultant, called on the school to review how it manages pupils with “challenging behaviour”, and said restraint should only be used as a “very last resort”.