Secure Accommodation Policy
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Before secure accommodation is considered all methods to prevent secure must have been tried, and all accommodation options must have been considered including residential, fostering, commissioned, and specialist IFA/therapeutic placements. A referral to the High Risk Group and or consideration of an Initial Child Protection Conference should have been made. It is essential that there is evidence that only secure accommodation will meet the young person's specific needs, not just about restricting liberty.
AMENDMENTIn December 2017, this guidance was reviewed throughout and updated as required to reflect current arrangements in Derbyshire for obtaining a Secure Accommodation Placement. In particular, Section 5, The Decision Making Process – Secure Panel was substantially revised to reflect current practice in relation to making decisions about the need for a placement in secure accommodation.
Restricting the liberty of a young person is a serious step which must be taken only when there is no genuine alternative which would be appropriate. It must be a "last resort" in the sense that all else must first have been comprehensively considered and rejected – never because no other placement was available at the time, because of inadequacies in staffing, because the young person is simply being a nuisance or runs away from their accommodation and is not likely to suffer Significant Harm in doing so, and never as a form of punishment. Secure accommodation is one of a range of services to meet the specific needs of individual young people, not just about restricting liberty.
It is important in considering the possibility of a secure placement, that there is a clear view of the aims and objectives of such a placement and that those providing the accommodation can meet those aims and objectives fully.
Secure placements, once made, should only be for so long as is necessary. The first order may only last for 3 months. An order serves to authorise the local authority to place a child in secure accommodation. It is permissive and does not require the local authority to take this action as such. Should the criteria for secure accommodation cease during the currency of the order, the young person must be moved to more appropriate accommodation.
No child under the age of 13 years may be placed in secure accommodation without the express permission of the Secretary of State. For more information as to how to obtain permission see the DfE Guidance - Secure Children's Homes: How to Place a Child Aged Under 13.
No young person aged 16 or over whose legal status is "accommodated voluntarily" under s20(5) Children Act 1989 may be placed in secure accommodation. The placement for welfare reasons of young persons aged 16 years and over who are subject to care orders is permissible but would only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Only the local authority who is looking after the young person may apply for an order (Regulation 8).
2. Principles Underpinning the Use of Secure Accommodation
All placements must be in line with the welfare principles outlined in the Children Act 1989, including equal opportunities issues.
All reasonable steps must be taken to avoid the need of Secure Accommodation Policy. By definition this means that the function of secure accommodation is as a last resort and all genuine alternatives must be comprehensively considered and rejected before a placement in secure accommodation is considered.
Restricting the liberty of young persons is a serious step which must be taken only when there is no genuine alternative which would be appropriate. It must be a "last resort" in the sense that all else must first have been comprehensively considered and rejected – never because no other placement was available at the time, because of inadequacies in staffing, because the young person is simply being a nuisance or runs away from their accommodation and is not likely to suffer significant harm in doing so, and never as a form of punishment. Secure accommodation is one of a range of services to meet the specific needs of individual young people.
Under no circumstances should any young person be placed in secure accommodation unless they satisfy the legal criteria for a secure order and only in exceptional circumstances should a young person be placed in secure accommodation without reference to the Family Proceedings Court (in cases relating to welfare criteria) or a Youth/Magistrates' Court (in cases relating to remand criteria).
Acceptance of these basic principles means that the number of occasions that discretionary use is made of secure accommodation will be extremely small. Discretionary usage is restricted to those situations where it is intended to seek authorisation to apply for an order and authorisation for such usage will be through the panel system, subject to approval by the Director or their nominee.
There must be clear aims and objectives for each placement in secure accommodation.
Every young person in secure accommodation should have access to an Independent Representative/Advocate, and recourse to the formal complaints procedure.
3. Criteria for Admission to Secure Accommodation
NB - It is unlawful to keep a young person in secure accommodation unless these criteria as laid down below have been met.
Young People who are Looked After i.e. those children and young people subject to a Care Order under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 or accommodated under Section 20 with the agreement of a person with Parental Responsibility and:
- That the young person has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation AND, if they abscond is likely to suffer Significant Harm;
- That if they are kept in any other description of accommodation they are likely to injure themselves or other people.
NB "History of absconding" should refer only to behaviour which is relevant to the current situation and not to previous absconding which may have little or nothing to do with the current situation.
4. Time Limits
No young person in care or accommodated may have their liberty restricted for a period longer than 72 hours either consecutively or in aggregate, in any period of 28 days without the authority of the Court.
The exception to the 72 hour rule is covered by Regulation 10(3) which provides that, where a child/young person is placed in secure accommodation between 12.00 midday on a day before and 12.00 midday on the day after a public holiday or Sunday:
- During that period the maximum period of 72 hours expires; AND
- The child had, in the previous 27 days before the day on which s/he was placed in secure accommodation, been placed and kept in such accommodation for an aggregate of more than 48 hours.
The maximum period shall be treated as if it did not expire until 12.00 midday on the first day, which is not in itself a public holiday or Sunday.
This limited extension is intended to cater for the emergency placement of a young person in secure accommodation when a major proportion of the 72 hours has already been used up, and it is unlikely to be possible to arrange for an application to be heard by the Family Proceedings Court before the 72 hours expires.
Regulation 10 does not apply to those young persons admitted to secure accommodation who have 24 hours, or more, left of the 72 hours permitted aggregate. In these cases, an application must be brought before the Family Proceedings Court within the 72 hour period if it is intended that the placement should continue beyond that period, even in those cases where there the period would expire on a Sunday or Public Holiday when courts do not normally sit. Family Proceedings Courts can make arrangements to convene a special court at short notice, in order to co-operate as fully as possible with the requirements of the Act and the Regulations.
5. The Decision Making Process - Secure Panel
Where the Locality is considering that secure accommodation might be the only possible option, the IRO Manager must be contacted to discuss the concerns and consider what possible options have been explored.
Where this discussion concludes that secure accommodation should be further pursued; the Head of Service - Locality, must discuss the case with the Assistant Director Early Help and Safeguarding or their delegate.
The Head of Service - Locality, must discuss the case with the Assistant Director Early Help and Safeguarding or their delegate.
This process is designed to gate keep the Secure Panel, and decide whether to recommend that a Secure Panel should be convened.
The Secure Panel, if convened, must be a properly constituted panel, which recognises the learning from the Secure Audit. It is essential that the young person has the opportunity to properly engage in the panel discussions, and the panel are able to fully participate. In order for this to be meaningful, the essential core membership of the panel are:
- IRO manager (Chair)/Head of service locality;
- Service Director or their delegate independent from the child's locality;
- Independent team leader/Early Help Manager;
- An Independent Person.
Legal Advice to the Panel
Where the information before the panel may result in a decision to apply for an order on welfare grounds, a representative from the County Secretary's Division of Corporate Resources Department will attend to advise the panel.
Other persons to be included in the Secure Panel discussion:
- The views of parents and carers should be sought and every effort made for them to attend in person;
- The young person's view should be taken into consideration and every effort made for them to attend in person;
- A representative from children's rights should attend as an observer IF the young person is unwilling to attend;
- The child's Advocate (if they wish) to support the young person and ensure their views are heard;
- Where the concerns relate wholly or in part to a young person's offending behaviour the Youth Offending Service should attend;
- If they are already in care their carers or key residential staff should attend; and
- Mental health representative where appropriate.
Reports for Panel
A risk assessment based on the safety and well-being grid should have been completed and a chronology made available to the panel.
Other circumstances are:
- Where a young person has been remanded in custody without proper consideration of the criteria for placement in secure accommodation; or
- Where a member of the Senior Management Team receives information that the behaviour and circumstances of the young person are such that they may meet the criteria for placement in secure accommodation.
Following such information the Chairperson should liaise with the Service Director who will decide whether a Secure Panel should be convened.
In emergency situations where it is not possible to convene a Secure Panel, the Service Director may act using the Director's discretionary powers under Regulation 10.3 and give verbal approval where:
- A young person is at risk of immediate and significant harm;
- The public are considered to be at risk of immediate or serious injury;
- A young person who would otherwise be detained by the police under PACE but who needs to go to a welfare secure bed, and also needs to satisfy the S25 criteria.
The Panel Chair will consider the legal advice and that of panel members as to whether or not:
- The relevant legal criteria are satisfied;
- Any other form of accommodation is appropriate;
- The use of secure accommodation is a genuine last resort; and
- Whether or not an application should be made to a court for an order.
Attendance/Participation at Panel
The Panel should hear from:
- The case responsible social worker;
- A member of the Localities' Management Team;
- A representative of the residential placement or a foster carer where the young person is looked after; and
- A Youth Offending Service worker where the application will consider any offending behaviour.
It should also include the views of:
- The young person;
- The young person's parent(s);
- Any person who is not a parent but who has Parental Responsibility; and
- Any other person who the local authority consider should be informed.
Where it is considered inappropriate for a young person or their parent(s) to attend, the reasons for this should be discussed in advance with the chair of the panel who will record the decision and the reasons for it. The Chair should also be advised of any sensitive issues which might require particular arrangements to be made with regard to how the meeting would be most helpfully organised.
The Department's Complaints and Representations Procedure are applicable to any decision by a panel and any person eligible to use the procedure and wishing to do so should request an urgent review of the decision. In such circumstances, a further panel will be convened.
Where the complaint is in respect of a decision to apply for an order, the complainant should be advised that the correct procedures are to contest the decision in court. The complainant should be encouraged to seek independent legal advice.
NB - No Court shall make an order in respect of a child who is not legally represented in that Court unless having been informed of their right to apply for legal aid and having the opportunity of doing so, he/she has refused.
Where approval is given for an application to proceed a placement plan should be drawn up which takes account of the anticipated duration and arrangements for bringing it to an end.
6. Procedure to be Followed
6.1 Applications to Secure Panel
A written Care Plan, Chronology and Risk Assessment and any other relevant information must be completed.
Wherever possible this should be available in advance to the chair of the panel and in all circumstances sufficient copies should be brought to the meeting for panel members and those in attendance.
The Panel will:
- Consider the application and the Chair will record their decision reflecting any different views of panel members; and
- provide minutes of the meeting and their decision which will be distributed to:
- Panel members and those in attendance;
- Service Director;
- IRO manager.
- Advise on next steps to be taken, including:
- Approving use of the Director's discretion pending any application to a Court;
- Recommending the length of any order to be sought;
- Approving any special escorting arrangements, including police assistance;
- Recommending an alternative strategy where an application has been turned down.
If the Panel agree that it is appropriate for a Secure Order to be sought, such action must be effected within seven days of the Panel decision being made.
If an Order is not made within that timescale, (for example, because there was no Secure bed available, child was missing etc.), then, if Secure Accommodation seems still to be appropriate, a further Secure Panel must be held in order to consider the current information.
7. Applications to Court
In non-criminal proceedings the maximum duration for which a court can authorise the use of secure accommodation is 3 months. Following such an order, further orders, not exceeding 6 months may be made.
In non-criminal proceedings application should be made to a Family Court.
In non-criminal proceedings as soon as a secure panel has agreed that an application for a secure order should be made, the relevant Court Office should be contacted to book a date for a hearing.
Forms C1 and C20 (Application for an Order to hold a young person in secure accommodation) should be completed and lodged with the relevant Magistrates' Court Office in advance of all applications to the Family Courts. Once the Court Office has completed the application, copies of the forms should be served on the child, any person with parental responsibility for the child, the child's legal representative and the County Secretary's Division (Legal Services). The forms should be served no later than one day before the day that the hearing is listed.
In non-criminal proceedings applications for secure accommodation orders should be made by a solicitor from the County Secretary's Division of Corporate Resources Department. Evidence in support of the application will be required preferably in the form of written statements or reports.
All applications to court for a Secure Accommodation Order should be accompanied by a written application.
Prior to leaving the court a copy of the Secure Accommodation Order must be obtained from the Court Clerk and subsequently handed to a senior member of staff at the secure unit where the child/young person is to be placed.
The young person should not be allowed to leave the Courtroom until the order has been obtained and s/he will not be (re-)admitted into secure accommodation without written evidence of the authority for placement.
8. Appeals Against a Decision to the Court
Where a court fails to make an order upon application, the local authority has the right of appeal within 21 days to the Family Court. Alternatively, if the circumstances change, this may constitute grounds for a fresh application. With specific reference to Section 25 appeals are to the High Court.
The young person must not be held in secure accommodation pending this appeal.
Where the court upholds the application, the young person has the right of appeal to the Family Court within 21 days through their solicitor.
The young person may be held in secure accommodation pending this appeal.
9. Placement Considerations
Any decision taken to seek a placement in secure accommodation must be taken at a senior level within the authority. Such authority is vested in the Executive Director or their delegate, Service Director Early Help and Safeguarding.
In order to locate a suitable placement, the social worker should contact the Secure Accommodation Welfare Coordination Unit for information about vacancies.
At this point there should be enquiries made about the physical intervention techniques used within the secure units being approached, and their policy on mobility.
10. Use of Director's Discretionary Powers in Emergency Situations including Pace Transfers
In emergency situations where it is not possible to convene a Secure Panel, a Children's Services Senior Management Team Member may act using the Director's discretionary powers under Regulation 10.3 and give verbal approval where:
- A young person is at risk of immediate and significant harm; or
- The public are considered to be at risk of immediate and serious injury; or
- A young person would otherwise be detained by the police under PACE and needs to be transferred to local authority secure accommodation.
Such decisions should be taken only in extreme emergencies and any such decision will be subject to an urgently convened secure panel which will be chaired by the person whose approval was given to the placement, even where the young person no longer remains in secure accommodation.
No young person accommodated in open conditions may be placed in secure accommodation in an emergency without approval from a Children's Services Senior Management Team Member.
In the event of such a situation arising in respect of any young person detained under the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, who is on licence and is accommodated in an open bed under Section 91, the approval of the Department of Health and Social Care must first be sought.
Even if a child is detained using the Directors Discretion (72 hour rule), the child must attend court for the initial court hearing where they can access legal advice.
11. Planning Requirements
Wherever possible, a meeting should be held to plan the admission, draft an initial placement plan and consider its links with the care plan.
Within 7 days of admission, there should be a looked after children's review chaired by the young persons allocated Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). This should consider the care plan in full including the purpose of the secure period i.e. assessments etc. and the discharge plans.
There will be a Secure Criteria Review within 28 days. A further criteria review must be held within 91 days unless the Locality confirm with the IRO that they want to go back to court for a further period. If court makes a further secure order a criteria review should be held within 28 days. See also Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure.
If court makes a further secure order a criteria review should be held within 28 days.
The following people should be invited and encouraged to attend the secure criteria review:
- The social worker;
- The young person;
- Parents or carers;
- A key worker from the unit
- A manager from the unit;
- A teacher from the education unit;
- Young person's advocate;
- Any other person who has a contribution to make.
A social work report should be available to the panel (template available) along with a report from the unit.
Minutes of the meeting will be made by the IRO chair and they should be distributed to all who attend a copy sent to the Service Director. (Template available).
Given the nature of the order and the importance of making minimum use of secure accommodation, wherever possible the social worker should undertake weekly visits to the young person and meet with staff at the unit.
12. Secure Criteria Review Requirements – Section 25 Orders
Reviews of the care plan under Section 31 of the Children Act must be undertaken.
In addition to this, there is a requirement to appoint a panel of 3 or more persons, one of whom must be independent of the local authority (i.e. not an employee), to review the criteria for placement in secure accommodation in accordance with Secure Accommodation Regulation 15.
The panel will comprise:
- Independent Reviewing Officer (Chair) who is not the IRO who chairs the young persons looked after reviews;
- An Independent Person appointed by the Quality Assurance Service;
- Child Care Manager independent of Line Management of the case – identified by Head of Service (locality).
Its function is to have regard to the welfare of the young person when considering whether or not:
- The legal criteria for keeping the young person in secure conditions continue to apply;
- The placement in such accommodation continues to be necessary;
- Any other form of accommodation would be appropriate;
- Consideration of any decision to permit or withhold permission to go out of the unit.
In order to ensure that no young person is held in secure conditions any longer than is necessary, it is the policy of the Derbyshire County Council that:
- Placements of up to 90 days will be reviewed in accordance with Regulation 16 at intervals of not more than 28 days;
- Placements proceeding beyond 90 days will be reviewed in accordance with Regulation 16 at intervals not greater than 3 monthly.
If the review panel finds that the criteria are no longer satisfied, the young person must immediately be discharged from Secure Accommodation.
13. The Role of the Independent Person / Advocate
The placement of young people in secure accommodation and the restriction of liberty inevitably limits their access to persons to whom they might ordinarily turn for reassurance, personal support, to make a complaint or, more simply, to ensure their voice is heard.
The Social Worker should ascertain from the Secure Unit the availability of an Independent Person/Advocate for the young person and ensure that the young person has access to such advice and support. (THIS PERSON IS NOT THE SAME PERSON AS THAT WHO SITS ON THE CRITERIA REVIEW PANEL).
14. Going Out of the Unit
Following admission to the unit, no young person is allowed to leave so long as the legal authority for placement in secure conditions remains in force, except:
- To attend Court; or
- To receive urgent medical attention which cannot be provided through a doctor visiting the unit.
These conditions will be discussed fully at the initial planning meeting which will set out the processes whereby a young person progresses to the point where a "mobility plan" is implemented. Any such plan must be approved by the Secure Unit and Area Manager for the case.
Risk Assessment and Monitoring Arrangements
Given the serious nature of any decision to restrict a young person's liberty, the fullest consideration must be given to how this is restored to him/her. It is the general aim to pursue mobility proposals at an early stage but only following the proper consideration of:
- The reasons and circumstances that led to the making of the order and progress towards resolving them;
- The nature of the order and the probable outcome of any criminal proceedings;
- The acceptance by the young person of the reasons for the order and the progress he/she is making on the placement plan;
- Their behaviour in the unit, including statements made;
- Any relevant stress factors;
- Any risk of harm to the young person, any other individual or the community in general.