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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 09:56 GMT
Czech anger at caged beds report
Child in a cage bed in the Czech Republic
Czech officials say side rails are safer than strong medicines
A Czech minister has questioned claims that cage-like beds are still being used for children in social care homes a year after being banned.

An undercover BBC team found children kept in high-bar beds in five homes.

Social affairs minister Petr Necas told Czech media the beds were "cots" not cages and "completely normal" if a doctor and guardian agreed to them.

But Council of Europe human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg called for a more child-oriented approach.

They have to have an overall clear policy that they shouldn't use beds that have a psychological impact of being imprisoned
Thomas Hammarberg
Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe

Mr Necas was quoted by the Aktualne.cz website as saying that his children were in a cot with bars until they were three years old and "it does not matter whether a client is 20, their mental age makes the difference".

A ministry spokesman, quoted by Czech media, said that the alternative to side rails was increasing the dosage of tranquillisers.

In the ministry's opinion it was felt that strong medicine was far worse.

Child safety

But Mr Hammarberg told the BBC News website that arguments about the safety of the child were second to the effect on the child's mental state.

"The psychological impact of having such a bed is negative and that's why anyone concerned with the rights of the child would recommend very highly against it."

In the BBC report, a girl with severe mental disabilities is shown in a bed, locked behind bars that rise up six feet from the floor.

Jan Fiala of the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre said that the beds shown were cages and could not be considered cots

"In a cot a child can't climb out, but cots aren't so high that carers cannot reach them," he said.

A ministry spokesman said only a small percentage of children were placed in such "cots" and he added that the BBC report had been unprofessional.

The report, he said, should have had a response from a care home director and included only one comment from a lengthy interview with the man who drafted the new law for the ministry of social affairs, Martin Zarsky.

Inspection team

In his comment, Mr Zarsky told the BBC that an inspection team would be sent immediately.

The human rights commissioner said the decision to have another look at the care homes in question was a positive step.

"They have to have an overall clear policy that they shouldn't use beds that have a psychological impact of being imprisoned," Mr Hammarberg said.

"Hopefully they'll have a child-rights-oriented approach in the future."

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