During the visit, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that treatment included extensive use of involuntary ‘motivational trips’. Combined with other measures such as plenary assemblies and ‘phaseless periods’, these trips contributed to creating an unpredictable and insecure situation for the young people at the institution.
‘The institution should review its practice and ensure that the young people are heard and treated with dignity,’ says Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger.
Child welfare institution
The Klokkergården collective is a child welfare institution in Hedmark county whose objective is to rehabilitate young people with substance abuse and behavioural problems. The institution can accommodate 15 persons between the ages of 13 and 18 and is approved for placement without the consent of the person in question.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) visited the collective on 6-8 June 2017. Klokkergården was notified in April 2017 that a visit would take place in the period between May and July 2017. The specific date of the visit was not announced. The investigation concerned the institution’s procedures and practice in connection with the use of force, participation, activities, health and safety. The Parliamentary Ombudsman spoke to young people, members of staff and management, and reviewed a number of documents.
Problematic practice involving involuntary ‘motivational trips’
One of the findings from the visit is the Klokkergården collective’s use of involuntary ‘motivational trips’ where one young person and two adults go to one of the foundation’s houses in the wood for up to 14 days at a time. Motivational trips are used for therapeutic purposes and are an integral part of the treatment. The purpose of such trips is to enable the young people to concentrate on working on conflicts or problems that have developed quickly or over time, without being disturbed.
The use of motivational trips is perceived as problematic. The young people were not always informed of the reason for their motivational trip, and nor were they told how long the trip would last. They could feel isolated because they were away from the rest of the residents and staff, and because their mobile phones were often taken from them.
The procedure whereby young people are selected for motivational trips also give cause for concern. When the staff had decided to take a young person on a motivational trip, he/she was normally pulled aside in the hallway near the exit of the main building. If the young person did not wish to go on the trip and did not go out to the car voluntarily, the staff and the young person remained in the hallway until he/she consented to the trip. In such situations, the staff would block the doors in the hallway by standing in front of them to prevent the young person from going anywhere but out to the car. Nor were he/she allowed to bring a bag.
The young people were placed in a coercive situation where their only way out was to comply with the adults’ demands for how they should behave and what they should say.
‘There are several factors involved in the use of motivational trips that facilitate manipulation and improper pressure from the adults,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.
Young people have the right to be heard and the right to participate
In most cases, the motivational trips also included a period as ‘phaseless’ when the young person returned to the institution. Being ‘phaseless’ meant being accompanied by an adult both inside and outside the institution, and the young person’s mobile phone was often taken away. In addition, the young person had to state the reason why he/she was sent on the trip and answer questions from both adults and the other young people during a plenary assembly.
‘Young people have the right to be heard and be treated with dignity,’ says Falkanger
‘The degree of force and the lack of any real opportunity for the young people to participate mean that it is difficult to see how a motivational trip can make a positive contribution to any lasting change. Young people have the right to be heard and be treated with dignity,’ says Falkanger
The visit identified several shortcomings relating to administrative decisions on the use of force. A lack of administrative decisions, inadequate grounds for the decisions and a lack of information important to safeguarding the young people’s right to complain give cause for concern, according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. These practices clearly weaken the young people’s legal protection.
Grounded in their rooms
It was also found that, if the young people overslept, they were grounded in their rooms. Those who overslept in the morning and failed to appear downstairs by 8.45 had to stay in their rooms for the rest of the day. This included having to eat their meals in their rooms. Nor were they allowed to participate in social activities organised outside the house.
‘Routine grounding of young people in their rooms if they oversleep is a clear violation of young people’s right to autonomy and privacy. It increases the risk of the young people feeling isolated. Being grounded in their rooms as routine punishment for oversleeping should not take place,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.
Broad range of activities
The physical surroundings at the Klokkergården collective appeared to be good, and there seems to be a broad range of activities on offer for the young people, both at and outside the institution. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also had the impression that the young people were given good opportunities to help to decide which activities they wanted to participate in. The institution also had good procedures in place for safeguarding the health of the young people upon arrival and during their stay.