State Government to ban ‘appalling’ spit hoods in Youth Justice system

The State Government has announced it will ban the use of spit hoods in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC).

Spit hoods – head coverings designed to prevent young people in residence from spitting on or biting others – have been used in the youth training system since 2014.

They have been used 57 times between October 2016 and June, this year.

Their use has reduced significantly to only 5 uses in 2018-19 and they have not been used at all since the end of March, 2019.

The commitment to ban the use of spit hoods comes on the back of an Ombudsman report released today on their use at the AYTC in 2016 and 2017.

The State Government has accepted all three spit-hood recommendations made by the Ombudsman and will ban their use by June 2020.

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said it was “unacceptable” that South Australia remained the only jurisdiction in the country that still relied on the use of spit hoods for protecting staff from disease transmission.

“Spit hoods are a legacy policy that simply have no place in a modern, therapeutic environment,” said Minister Lensink.

“That’s why we are moving to ban this strategy in our youth training system, in favour of other more appropriate ways that balance the rights and welfare of young people with the safety of staff.

“Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our young people and staff.

“A transition period to phase out the use of spit hoods, as supported by the Ombudsman, will give us time to identify, source and implement appropriate alternative options, including training staff in new techniques to ensure a safe transition for both staff and young people.”

The Ombudsman made a fourth recommendation regarding the use of force in the AYTC and the Department has committed to a review on the use of force and restraint in the system to ensure force is only ever used as a last resort.

“The use of force is an absolute last resort for staff,” said Minister Lensink.

“Young people at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre can present with very difficult and challenging behaviour, many with significant histories of trauma and violence, who have been found guilty of serious crimes.

“With this in mind, management can often be challenging and even with the best strategies, incidents can occur.

“Staff are trained in specialised behaviour support techniques to de-escalate behaviour aimed at reducing incidents.

“We have acted swiftly on the Ombudsman’s recommendations and I am pleased Mr Lines commended staff at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre and the Department for how they have already achieved reductions in the use of spit hoods.

“The State Government has already made and will continue to make significant improvements in the Youth Justice system and remains committed to learn and review best practice for both young people and staff.”

/Public News. View in full here.