MRCs – are we still missing an opportunity?

In her latest blog on Movement Restriction Conditions (MRCs), published along with her Info Sheet, Donna McEwan shares one young person’s experience of being tagged to demonstrate the importance of understanding the full potential of MRCs.

Data suggests we might be missing opportunities to use EM to its full and flexible potential as part of a wraparound support with under 18s. Scottish Government data on secure care from 2013 illustrates that over the past five years the number of admissions to secure care varies from 215 to 257, and the number of discharges on a yearly basis have ranged from 226 to 257. In comparison the numbers of Compulsory Supervision Orders with an MRC made from 2014-2017 from a high of 31 to a low of 20 (which occurred in 2016) and 26 MRCs imposed from Jan-July this year so far would seem to question why these numbers are so disparate. Even withno scrutiny of the data and just looking at the highline numbers, this seems to question whether we are missing opportunities to work with children in their communities.

Having spoken to practitioners, I wanted a young person’s views on EM. I met with Kevin*, person who agreed to share his thoughts on why he felt an MRC would be helpful for him and his reflections during his period on a “tag”.

Kevin’s level of insight and the considered thought he had obviously given to the use of an MRC to support his return home struck me as well thought out and measured. He had used his time to reflect on the situations he had experienced prior to his time in secure care and what he wanted to be different on returning home. He recognised that, whilst desperate to return home, in order to build on the changes he had started making he would need support. Kevin expressed how hard it could be saying no to friends and avoiding the type of situations he knows he needs to. He viewed the MRC as a way to help him manage such situations as it would be a physical reminder to others that he cannot stay out past his curfew time, that there were real consequences for him which may include undoing the work he has done and possibly a return to secure care. This tag would be a physical object he could utilise to say no, it would be a thing he could use to prevent him losing face. It gave him something to lean on to say no to others, but it was also a physical reminder for himself.

Kevin felt the consistency of the restrictions would be helpful, knowing he had to be home by a certain time at night but also that there was scope for the times to be changed as he became more confident and consistent in using his new skills and thinking to navigating negative situations and maintain the changes in his behaviour. He viewed the information that his workers had given and discussed with him about the MRC as helpful and understood what would happen, the supports around him and expectations of him. His mother told us she felt the workers had provided good information and she understood the implications of the MRC, as well as viewing it as a positive. On return home and for a significant period following this Kevin was managing well and found the tag beneficial in the ways he had previously identified. However, things broke down for him after a period of 6-8 weeks, he returned to secure care, and that is where I caught up with him again.

Kevin ultimately viewed his experience of the tag as beneficial. It provided him with what he hoped it would – consistency and structure to his day, which helped him to avoid previous negative behaviours and situations, knowing when he had to be home, a physical thing he could use to divert pressure from others. This positive view was shared by those around Kevin and they recognised how hard he had worked on his return home and whilst his compliance with the tag broke down after the above time period, it had supported his engagement with other aspects of support.  The timing of opportunities did not always fall at the right point for Kevin and this was a source of frustration for him and all supporting him.

However, the view of the Children’s Panel members was somewhat different and they failed to acknowledge or recognise the benefits Kevin had derived from the MRC as part of his support plan. The fact that he had ceased complying with his MRC was their overriding factor, which negated the amount of effort both Kevin and his mother had put into his return. Kevin had learned from his experience, as did those supporting him, which would inform his plans for returning home.

Kevin brought to life for me to the importance of understanding what MRCs can do as part of a package of support. The team around Kevin and his mother sought to use it in a tailored way for Kevin, to fit his needs and risks, he was included and central to the plan moving forward. I think we have to be clear what success looks like in relation to any plan of support and intervention and recognising that often the path away from offending behaviour is not a straight line, but consists of twists and turns that young people need our unflagging support in navigating.

About our blogger

Donna McEwan is Practice Development Advisor for CYCJ, with a particular interest in the Whole System Approach. Read more.

What happened when we asked four (willing) volunteers to wear an electronic tag for a week? Find out here…

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