Last year, 95 children were admitted into Adult Psychiatric Units, and, appallingly, this trend continues today. This is in spite of the fact that, year on year, the Mental Health Commission has insisted that this practice would stop. In her first year as Senator, Joan will introduce legislation to end this process, and urge the Government to fast-track it through the houses.
The Mental Health Commission has reported in every year since 2006, that at least 75 children were admitted to Adult Mental Health units. In 2015, that number increased to 95 children with approximately 9.5% of those children aged 16 or younger.
The Ombudsman for Children reported that a number of complaints submitted to his office related to children being inappropriately placed in adult inpatient facilities, particularly children at risk of suicide or self-harm, and that these situations appeared to be due to a lack of suitable emergency placements.
The proposed Amendment, if passed in time, would create a statutory basis by which this practice could no longer occur. Under the Mental Health Act 2001, there is no legislative requirement that a child be detained in a child appropriate unit or, if a child is detained in an adult centre, that he or she be accommodated in an area separate from adults and in an age-appropriate environment.
If a child is being treated in an approved centre, whether on an involuntary or voluntary basis, then the Approved Centres Regulations must be followed. These regulations are set out in the Mental Health Act 2001 (Approved Centres) Regulations 2006, S. I. No. 551 of 2006. These regulations do not provide for any child specific treatment, other than to protect the child or vulnerable adult from any instances of abuse.
Senator Freeman hopes to call on the Government to pass this legislation so that this will put an end to this treatment of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Protecting our children
Our nation’s children are voiceless – I will be their voice until they can speak for themselves.