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Secure youth care is failing. ‘It’s like being in an extremely strict prison.’

Roughly arrested and subjected to extreme isolation. Using his experience, expert Jason Bhugwandass spoke to 50 young people who have spent time on Zikos wards (‘very intense, short-term observation and stabilisation wards’). He concluded that they’re ‘mostly locked up’ and leave ‘even more traumatised’ than when they came in.

Mariëlle Bruning, Professor of Child Law, responds to these findings on Dutch current affairs programme Nieuwsuur: ‘These young people arrive in the hope that they’ll finally get treatment. In reality, they enter a repressive environment similar to an extremely strict prison. That can leave them even more traumatised.’ She also highlights how extraordinary yet significant it is that these findings have come to light: ‘These children are often suspicious of those types of agencies. With Jason, they must have felt safe enough to tell their stories.’

The two organisations that run Zikos wards say that while they acknowledge care is substandard, they are currently ‘ill prepared’ to provide young people with ‘the safe, skilled environment they need’ (NOS, in Dutch).

Bruning believes the government needs to step in to help these children: That means better pay for care professionals, if necessary. They could also be transferred from wards that require a less intensive level of care. It’s simply not right that so many young people are being traumatised by a system – the government is supposed to be protecting them.’

More information

Watch the full Nieuwsuur episode or read the NOS news item (both in Dutch).

Omroep Gelderland has also published an article based on Bhugwandass’ findings.

Photo by Ryan Tauss through Unsplash

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