In 2021, the Ombudsman’s Children’s Division carried out monitoring visits to Denmark’s eight secure residential institutions. The monitoring visits focused especially on use of physical force, solitary confinement, search of person and room as well as drugs tests.
The monitoring visits showed that the institutions were generally reflective in relation to the use of physical force and other interventions toward the children and the young people placed in the institution, and the institutions were focused on handling conflicts in a pedagogical and dialogue-based way.
The visits also showed that the secure institutions are still not sufficiently observant of deadlines for recording and reporting use of force, and there is still a need for a greater focus on the reports being adequately filled in.
‘Secure residential institutions are able to use extensive measures against the children and the young people. At the same time, there are rules on reporting and documenting force incidents to protect the children and the young people’s legal rights. It is therefore central that the institutions focus on these legal rights and ensure that the rules are complied with,’ says Parliamentary Ombudsman Niels Fenger.
The Ombudsman has started a number of own-initiative cases on the basis of the monitoring visits. One is an investigation of some institutions’ use of pedagogical measures that implies, among other things, complete or partial exclusion from association with others. Another investigation concerns a possible connection between the rules on door alarms and locking of rooms at night.
Read the 2021 thematic report on children and young people in secure residential institutions.
Read the news item about the theme of the Children’s Division’s monitoring visits in 2021 (in Danish only).
Read the 2017 thematic report on young people in secure care residential institutions and local and state prisons.
Parliamentary Ombudsman Niels Fenger, tel. +45 42 47 50 91
Senior Head of Division Susanne Veiga, tel. +45 33 13 25 12
Children and young people in secure residential institutions
- The theme of the Ombudsman’s monitoring visits in the children’s sector in 2021 was children and young people in secure residential institutions.
- There are a number of reasons why a child or young person is placed in a secure residential institution. The placement can take place with a view to observation, treatment or to prevent the child or young person from self-harming or harming other people. The placement can also be a substitute for pre-trial detention or as part of serving a sentence.
- The monitoring visits especially focused on:
- Use of physical force, solitary confinement and search of person and room
- House rules and drugs tests
- Education in in-house schools
- Health services.
- As part of the theme, the Ombudsman carried out monitoring visits to Denmark’s eight secure residential institutions, of which two have special secure wards. At the same time, the Ombudsman visited the institutions’ in-house schools.
- During the monitoring visits, the visiting teams interviewed a total of 55 children and young people aged 13-17 years.
Recommendations on use of physical force and other restrictions of the right to self-determination
On the basis of the monitoring visits, the Ombudsman generally recommends that the secure residential institutions
- ensure that the deadline is observed for recording the use of physical force and other restrictions of the right to self-determination, and that the deadlines are observed for reporting to and briefing the relevant authorities and custodial parents etc.
- ensure that report forms on the use of physical force contain an adequate description of the course of events in connection with the use of force, including a description of how the child or young person was effectively conducted or manually restrained, together with the reason why the intervention was necessary
- ensure that staff are sufficiently familiar with the Act on Adult Responsibility, including the rules on use of force in schools, and that the institutions have written guidelines on the use of physical force and other restrictions of the right to self-determination
- ensure that – in connection with the placement – children, young people and custodial parents etc. are informed of their rights in relation to the use of force or other restrictions of the right to self-determination, including the right to complain. In this context, the Ombudsman recommends that the institutions consider drawing up written material on rights, including the right to complain, that can be handed out on arrival.
- ensure that it is the manager or deputy manager who decides to place a child or young person in solitary confinement, and that in the absence of the manager it is clear to the staff who has been designated as deputy.
- ensure that the institution’s guidelines on solitary confinement describe the key requirements in the applicable rules, including that it must be possible for the child or young person to contact staff during the entirety of the solitary confinement, and that a psychiatric specialist (or a general medical practitioner) must be summoned, if the child or young person suffers from a mental disorder.
Recommendations concerning in-house schools
Based on the monitoring visits, the Ombudsman generally recommends in relation to the in-house schools that the institutions
- in cooperation with the relevant municipality ensure that the basis for the in-house school in the form of agreements etc. complies with the applicable rules
- ensure that all pupils are taught the full range of subjects and number of teaching hours, and that exceptions therefrom are only made if a pupil – based on a concrete and individual assessment – is exempted from lessons in one or more subjects or has the teaching hours reduced according to the relevant applicable rules
- ensure that decisions on exemption from mandatory tests and Folkeskole examinations are made in accordance with the rules, and that there is documentation for this.
Recommendations concerning health-related matters
In relation to health, the Ombudsman generally recommends that the institutions
- ensure that all children and young people who on arrival has not already undergone a psychiatric evaluation are offered screening in order to uncover a possible need for this
- are focused on identifying children and young people who have or are at risk of developing withdrawal symptoms, and that the institutions ensure that relevant treatment of withdrawal symptoms takes place.
The Ombudsman discusses follow-up on the general recommendations with the central authorities in the field.
The Ombudsman will also follow up on the recommendations in connection with future monitoring visits in the children’s sector.
The Ombudsman’s monitoring visits
- The Parliamentary Ombudsman carries out monitoring visits in public and private institutions, especially where people are or can be deprived of their liberty.
- The monitoring visits are carried out in cooperation with DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, which contribute with medical and human rights expertise.
- The Ombudsman has a special responsibility for protecting the rights of children, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, among other things.
- The Ombudsman’s Children’s Division (link in Danish only) carries out monitoring visits in the children’s sector.
- Read more about the Ombudsman’s monitoring visits.