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Estimates: Questions regarding procedures for children in detention experiencing mental health crises

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Friday 13 August 2021, I asked about the procedures for children in youth detention (as young as 10 years old) who are experiencing a mental health crisis, such as threatening suicide. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Director-General, we have some very young children in detention in Queensland. This is a sombre question to start with but an important one. Can you tell us what would be the standard response to a young child who threatens suicide in detention?

Ms Mulkerin: I might just confer with the minister, because we actually have Mr Michael Drane, who is responsible for the detention centres, here. This has been his working life—working in detention—and I am sure he would be able to give a very comprehensive answer to a very serious question.

Mr Drane: It is a very important issue, as the director-general has rightly pointed out. Staff in the detention centres take every single precaution possible when a young person discloses or portrays some form of self-harm behaviour. Staff obviously raise that young person to the highest level of observation possible. The assessment of how that is managed is informed by a multidisciplinary team in the detention centre, usually psychologists and clinical nurses that are employed by health in the detention centre and trained operational staff. They immediately wrap intensive resources around that young person and provide support but also implement a plan to ensure that young person is maintained on the highest level of observation necessary with any risk mitigations that are necessary to manage them such that their safety is paramount.

Mr BERKMAN: Director-General, can you tell us what that looks like in practice? What does the highest level of observation—what do those measures look like? Are we talking about kids being isolated for observation here? What is the practical likely outcome?

Ms Mulkerin: I will defer to Mr Drane.

Mr Drane: In practical terms, that would mean a young person is maintained typically in an environment where they are comfortable—so the room they are allocated to whilst they are in detention. An observation level would be assigned commensurate with the risk and that could be as high as an observation of two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes depending on the level of risk that is assessed by that team that I mentioned earlier. It would also include any other risk mitigations necessary, so additional family contact. It might mean room sharing with someone in the detention centre that they know who is a support for them including a cousin, a relative or a friend. It would be daily follow-up and intensive follow-up by that multidisciplinary team with that child to make sure they are supported and to make sure those risks are mitigated. Does that answer the question?

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