Judge tells Wigan social services to find new accommodation for violent schoolboy 'inappropriately placed' on hospital ward

Council social services bosses must find alternative accommodation for a 12-year-old boy who has behavioural difficulties and has been “inappropriately placed” on a hospital ward, a High Court judge says.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:34 pm
Council social services bosses must find alternative accommodation for a 12-year-old boy
Council social services bosses must find alternative accommodation for a 12-year-old boy

Mr Justice MacDonald was told that the youngster is subjected to chemical and physical restraint at the hospital – and at times 13 police officers have been present in an effort to control his behaviour.

The judge said the boy demonstrates “challenging, violent and increasingly self-harming behaviour”.

He said nurses and staff have been hurt and other patients frightened.

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The judge refused to allow bosses at Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council to continue to deprive the boy of his liberty on the hospital ward and said they “simply must” find an “alternative placement” for him.

Mr Justice MacDonald, who is based in London, outlined detail of the case in a written ruling following a recent private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court.

He said the boy cannot be identified, referring to him in the ruling as “Y”, and has not named the hospital.

“In the circumstances, Y is currently and inappropriately placed on a clinical ward at (the hospital), where he has had to be subject to chemical restraint, physical restraint and five-to-one staffing in order to attempt to control his behaviour,” said the judge.

“At times there have been up to 13 police officers present on the ward in an effort to control Y’s behaviour.

“That paediatric ward has now had to be shut to new admissions due to the risk presented by Y, and parts of the ward have been closed entirely.

“Other gravely ill children have had to be moved to alternative hospitals across the North West of England and lists of elective surgeries for children in urgent need of such treatment have been cancelled.

“Nurses and other hospital staff have been injured.

“Other sick children and their parents have been alarmed and frightened.”

He added: “What will now happen to Y? The answer is that the local authority simply must find him an alternative placement.”

Mr Justice MacDonald, and a number of other judges, have raised concerns about a shortage of secure accommodation for children with behavioural difficulties in England and Wales in recent years.

The judge said the situation had arisen in the boy’s case because of “an acute lack of appropriate resources”.

He said he did not criticise medics, social workers and police involved with the boy’s care.

“All those involved have done their level best in a situation that has bordered on the unmanageable,” he said.

“Insofar as fault falls to be apportioned, it must settle on those who have not made the provision required to address the needs of highly vulnerable children such as Y.”

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