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3.2.10 Secure Accommodation Procedure (Including Reviews)

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Court Orders and Pre-Proceedings (2014)

Secure Children’s Homes: How to Place a Child Aged Under 13

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in June 2017 to update the placement finding address and acknowledge that Schedule 1 of the Children and Social Work Act (2017) now enables local authorities to make placements in Scotland under Sect 25 (Children Act 1989) and comes into force with immediate effect.


Contents

  1. Background
  2. Legislation
  3. Grounds for Applying for a Secure Accommodation Order (Welfare Route)
  4. Secure Order Under Section 25 (Welfare Route)
  5. Convening a Secure Accommodation Panel
  6. Membership of a Secure Accommodation Panel
  7. How to Convene a Secure Accommodation Panel
  8. The Secure Accommodation Panel Meeting
  9. Application to Court and Placement
  10. The Placement
  11. Purpose of a Secure Placement
  12. The Secure Accommodation Review Panel

    Appendix 1: Procedure for Seeking the Approval of the Secretary of State


1. Background

Secure Accommodation Background

Application to court to restrict the liberty of a child is a serious step and must only be taken when there is no alternative. It should never be because no other placement is available at the time, or because the child is simply being a nuisance or runs away, and never as a form of punishment.

Where a period of secure accommodation is being proposed, a Secure Accommodation Panel must be convened to consider the young person's circumstances. The decision to apply to court for a Secure Order will be made by the panel, which will be chaired by an Assistant Director.

It is important when considering the possibility of a secure placement that there is a clear view as to the purpose of using secure accommodation and how this fits into the overall Care Plan. No young person should be admitted without a plan having been made for their discharge.


2. Legislation

The Children Act 1989, Section 25 (1), states that secure accommodation is, “accommodation provided for the purpose of restricting liberty.” It may include placement in a psychiatric unit.

Children Act 1989, Guidance and Regulations, Volume 4, Residential Care, HMSO 1991, Para 8.10, further states that ”The interpretation of the term (…) is ultimately a matter to be determined by the Court. However, it is important to recognise that any practice or measure which prevents a child from leaving a room or building of his own free will, may be deemed by the Court to constitute ‘restriction of liberty."

Orders may be made by the Family Proceedings Court or in the course of Criminal Proceedings. The County Court and High Court may make orders only in the course of other proceedings. Section 25 Orders are ‘family proceedings’, therefore hearsay evidence is admissible and Court has power to make certain other orders even if there is no application.

The welfare of the child is relevant, but not paramount, and the criteria in Children Act 1989, Section 1 are not applicable.

"In coming to the decision to restrict the liberty of a child, the local authority will also have regard to their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child who is looked after by them (S.22(3). The welfare principle is rightly to be considered by the local authority in coming to so serious and draconian decision as to restrict the liberty of a child. They have the power, however, to place him in secure accommodation if he is likely to injure others, rather than Page 2 of 17 himself (S.25 (1)(b). This power may be inconsistent with the concept of the child’s welfare being paramount.”

Re: M (Secure Accommodation Order) (CA) (1995) 1 FLR. 418

These are orders of ‘last resort’ and once made, should only continue for so long as is necessary and unavoidable (see the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 1, Court Orders, Para 5.1).


3. Grounds for Applying for a Secure Accommodation Order (Welfare Route)

Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 sets out the criteria, which must be met before a child can be placed in secure accommodation. It provides that a child being looked after by the Local Authority may not be placed, and if placed, may not be kept in a secure accommodation unless it appears:

  1. That he/she has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from anything other than secure accommodation;

    and
  1. If he/she absconds he/she is likely to suffer significant harm (Section 25(1)(a));

    or
  1. If he/she is kept in anything other than secure accommodation he/she is likely to injure him/herself or other persons (Section 25 (1)(b)).

If the criteria are satisfied, there is a mandatory duty on the Court to make the order. Re: M (Secure Accommodation Order) (CA) (1995) 1 FLR. 418.

The following children may not have their liberty restricted:

  1. A child under the age of thirteen, without the prior approval of the Secretary of State;
  2. A child who is a ward of Court, unless there is a direction to that effect from a judge, exercising the Wardship Jurisdiction (C(SA) R 1991, S1 1991/1505 Reg 4);
  3. If a child who is accommodated under Section 20 has attained the age of 17, an application for a Secure Accommodation Order cannot be made in respect of him/her. (C(SA) R1991, S.I. 1991/1505, Reg 5C2).

If the Panel agrees it is necessary to place a child under the age of thirteen years in secure accommodation and consent of the Secretary of State is required, contact should be made with the DfES, in accordance with Appendix 1: Procedure for Seeking the Approval of the Secretary of State.

If a child is accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the parents retain their full rights and responsibilities, even if the court grants a Section 25 Secure Order. This means any person(s) with Parental Responsibility (who is not the subject of an interim or full Care Order) may at any time remove an Accommodated child from secure accommodation.

Partnership with parents is therefore of paramount importance and, prior to admission, a written agreement about placement should be made.

Where appropriate an application for a Secure Order may be accompanied by an application for an Interim Care Order, for example where the Section 31 threshold criteria are made out and/or the child has attained the age of sixteen years. A sixteen year old child Accommodated by the local authority under Section 20 may remove him/herself from secure accommodation. Similarly a child under sixteen years of age who is accommodated under Section 20 may not be placed in secure accommodation where his/her parents or person with shared Parental Responsibility has withdrawn their consent to accommodation. In such circumstances an appropriate application should be made to the Court to enable the local authority to share Parental Responsibility.

If it is thought likely that parental support for a placement may be withdrawn against the best interests of the young person, consideration should be given as to whether Care Proceedings should be initiated.


4. Secure Order Under Section 25 (Welfare Route)

A Local Authority may place a child in secure accommodation for up to seventy-two hours without a Court Order.

When a court grants a Secure Order, a time will be specified, initially up to three months. However, the Order is always permissive. This means that if at any stage the criterion for keeping the child in a secure unit ceases to apply, the child should be released.

It is unlawful for the liberty of a child to be restricted unless the criteria are met, no matter how short the period in security.

If a Secure Order is made, and at the time the Secure Order expires, the Local Authority believes that the criteria are still satisfied and that the child should remain in secure accommodation, the local authority will need to re-apply to the court for a further Secure Order. The court may authorise further periods of secure accommodation for a period of up to six months.

Secure placements, once made, should be only for as long as necessary and unavoidable.

The court can allow the child to be present at the hearing of the application, but should only do so if satisfied that it would be in the interests of the child.

(Re M (Secure Accommodation Order: Attendance at Court (1994) 2 FLR 1092)

The court hearing the application must not make a Secure Accommodation Order unless the child is legally represented, except where they have been informed of their legal rights to apply for legal assistance and, having had the opportunity to do so, have failed or refused to apply.

Interim Orders

Interim orders should only be made where the court is not in a position to decide whether the criteria are met e.g. the child is not present in court or has not been able to instruct his/her solicitor.

Young Offenders and Secure Accommodation

The law provides for admissions into secure accommodation for three discrete groups of young people charged with criminal offences:

  1. Those who are detained;
  2. Those who are remanded;
  3. Those who are serving custodial sentences.

Detained Children

Detained children are those who have been charged by the police and have been refused bail. They should be put before the next available court. They are detained under Section 38(6) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the police have a duty to transfer such young people to local authority accommodation unless they consider it impractical to do so. This could involve a placement in secure accommodation although normally the transfer would be to an open setting.

Remanded Children

Remanded children are those remanded to Local Authority accommodation under Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. Normally such a remand allows the local authority a largely free hand to decide on the appropriate placement, including the opportunity to apply to the court for a Secure Accommodation Order.

Section 97 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 amended Section 23 of the 1969 Act to allow the court to remand certain young people direct to secure accommodation, providing specific criteria are met. This includes all twelve, thirteen and fourteen year olds, and fifteen and sixteen year old girls.

In addition, fifteen and sixteen year old boys who meet vulnerability criteria can also be remanded to Local Authority secure accommodation.

Vulnerability is defined by Section 98 (5)(a) of the 1998 Act in that it indicates that it would be undesirable for a court to remand to a remand centre or prison a young person who is physically or emotionally immature or who has a propensity for self-harm.

The criteria for court ordered secure remand are as follows:

  1. The child or young person must be charged with, or have been convicted of, a violent or sexual offence or of an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for a term of fourteen years or more;

    or
  1. The child or young person must have a recent history of absconding whilst remanded to local authority accommodation and be charged with or have been convicted of an imprisonable offence, alleged or found to have been committed whilst so remanded;

    and
  1. In either case the court must be of the opinion that only remanding a child or young person to local authority secure accommodation would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from him/her.

Serious harm is only defined in connection with violent and sexual offences and means death or serious injury either physical or psychological occasioned by further such offences committed by the young person. Although serious harm is not defined for other offences the definition given above gives an indication of the gravity of the harm to which the public would need to be exposed before the criteria would be met. Examples of this could be dwelling house burglary where weapons were carried or theft of motor vehicles involving high speed or dangerous driving.

In some cases, when young people are remanded to Local Authority accommodation without a secure requirement, the local authority can make an application to the court under the previous Children Act 1989 legislation and obtain a secure accommodation order.

The criteria to be met are slightly different from those for court ordered secure remands and are as follows:

  1. The child or young person must be charged with, or have been convicted of, a violent or sexual offence or of an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for a term of fourteen years or more;

    or
  2. The child or young person must have a recent history of absconding whilst remanded to local authority accommodation and be charged with or have been convicted of an imprisonable offence, alleged or found to have been committed whilst so remanded;

    and
  3. It must appear that any accommodation other than that provided for the purpose of restricting liberty is inappropriate because he/she is likely to abscond from such other accommodation, or he/she is likely to injure him/herself or other people if kept in any other accommodation.

Sentenced Children

This relates to young people sentenced to custody. The law permits young people aged twelve but under the age of fifteen years to be placed in secure accommodation if made subject to such a sentence. This could either be a Detention and Training Order as defined by Section 73 Crime and Disorder Act 1998, or a period of detention under Section 53 Children and Young Persons Act 1993.

As regards Detention and Training Orders, young people in the relevant age group must meet the generic custody criteria and be defined as persistent offenders before such a sentence can be imposed. Persistent for this purpose has been held to mean the common sense definition.

The Youth Offending Team has responsibility for such cases and there is not a statutory duty on Children's Services, although it is expected that they should be involved in the planning process in relevant cases.

Young people may also be placed in local authority secure accommodation if convicted of a grave crime in the Crown Court and are sentenced to a period of imprisonment under Section 53 Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

There are two types of Section 53 sentence:

  1. Section 53(1) provides an indeterminate sentence for young people who are to be detained ‘At Her Majesty’s Pleasure’. This is equivalent to a life sentence;
  2. Section 53(2) is available for offences carrying fourteen years or more and allows the court to impose up to the maximum sentence that it could impose on an adult.

Children's Services has no statutory responsibility for such cases. The Secretary of State determines the placement and the Youth Offending Team provides care and post-custodial support. However, as with Detention and Training Orders, it would be expected that Children's Services would continue to be involved in the planning process in relevant cases.

Length of Placement

This section does not apply to placements made following court ordered Secure Remands, Detention and Training Orders or Section 53 sentences. The length of such placements are determined by the court and are not permissive orders.


5. Convening a Secure Accommodation Panel

The convening of a Secure Accommodation Panel should be considered in the following circumstances:

  1. A history of absconding and considered likely to suffer significant harm whilst absconding;
  2. Attempting or making serious threats to commit suicide;
  3. Seriously/persistently hurting others;
  4. Abusing drugs/alcohol/solvents to the point where medical attention is required;
  5. Stealing and driving cars whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or having accidents and/or taking younger or more vulnerable children as passengers;
  6. Out of control e.g. going missing for several periods of more than one night and putting self or others at risk of significant harm;

The above list is not exhaustive and does not assume that a placement in secure accommodation will be either necessary or appropriate. However, where one or more of the above factors apply it is important that the Social Worker and Team Manager consider as part of their ongoing assessment and care planning, whether a Secure Accommodation Panel should be discussed with the Head of Service.

The convening of a Secure Accommodation Panel, if appropriate, will also contribute to the assessment and planning by providing a forum for a wider evaluation of the issues and possible options.

The Assistant Director, Safeguarding, Children's Services must be consulted and be in agreement before a Secure Accommodation Panel can be arranged.

A Secure Accommodation Panel is not necessary with regard to court ordered Secure Remands, Detention and Training Orders or Section 53 sentences.

The court makes decisions on whether the criteria are met in such cases.

In the case of a court ordered Secure Remand, Children's Services makes a financial contribution to the costs of the placement. The Head of Regulated Services must therefore be informed whenever such an outcome is likely and the appropriate Out of County Approval paperwork must be completed to authorise payment and inform the Head of Regulated Services of the placement to which the young person is being taken.

It is necessary to convene a Secure Accommodation Panel in cases where the local authority is applying for an order under Section 25 Children Act 1989 via the Justice Route. In practice however, due to the emergency nature of the application, the likely process will be through the granting of the Assistant Director’s discretional seventy-two hour authorisation, with placement taking place in advance of the panel meeting.

Thus the role of the panel will be to confirm the validity of the placement and whether an application for a Section 25 Order is necessary.

The panel must meet as soon as possible after the Assistant Director has made the decision to give seventy-two hours authorisation in order to allow sufficient time for the application to be made to the court if appropriate, and for the application to be heard before the seventy-two hour period expires.


6. Membership of a Secure Accommodation Panel

The court may not be approached for a Secure Order without the agreement of the Secure Accommodation Panel.

The Secure Accommodation Panel will consist of:

  • Assistant Director;
  • Head of Regulated Services;
  • Team Manager, Youth Offending Team (where appropriate);
  • Team Manager for the young person;
  • Social Worker for the young person;
  • Other professionals e.g. residential worker, Police, CAMHS (where appropriate);
  • Minute taker.


7. How to Convene a Secure Accommodation Panel

Having first obtained agreement from the Assistant Director, Safeguarding Children's Services to proceed with convening a Secure Accommodation Panel, the Social Worker will contact the key attendees, arrange the meeting and send out the invitations.

The Social Worker will compile a written report for the Secure Accommodation Panel which includes the following:

  • Confirmation of the young person's legal status;
  • A full written history/chronology of the young person and confirmation of whether they are currently with the local authority or missing from care (having absconded);
  • A view of the likelihood that a court would find that the criteria for restriction of liberty (under Section 25, Children Act 1989) are satisfied, and an indication of when the local authority is intending to go to court to seek a Secure Order. This must be confirmed in writing by the legal team;
  • An explanation of why a placement in a secure children's home is the most appropriate placement for the young person;
  • Details of the outcomes achieved from previous placements;
  • Views of the young person, their parents and their current placement;
  • Whether a bed in a secure children's home has been identified;
  • Details of the costs of the proposed placement;
  • An indication of the alternatives to a placement in a secure children's home that have been considered and why these have been rejected;
  • The aims and objectives of the secure placement;
  • A copy of the most recent statutory review;
  • A copy of the current care plan, to include plans for the period of the secure placement, including a prospective exit strategy.

The Social Worker must contact the Legal Department prior to the Secure Accommodation Panel meeting to ensure they are made aware of any possible secure accommodation applications and can therefore make preliminary enquiries of the Court.


8. The Secure Accommodation Panel Meeting

The Social Worker’s report should have been faxed or e-mailed to all parties prior to the meeting and should be read along with any other relevant reports.

The Social Worker, Team Manager and any other involved parties will verbally advise of any further information relevant to the panel meeting.

The Chair of the Panel will ask questions and invite further questions from those present.

The Panel will specifically consider:

  1. Whether the criteria are met;

    and
  2. Whether any other types of accommodation have been considered and if they have been rejected, why?

The reasons for both should be clearly stated and recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

The Chair will ask panel members for their views and will make the ultimate decision. The Panel should agree the aims and objectives of the placement and devise a plan for discharge.

The minutes of the Panel will be available to all panel members within forty-eight hours.

If the Panel Chair authorises that the young person be detained for seventy-two hours, a letter giving written authorisation will be made available after the meeting for presentation on admission to the secure unit. The commissioning team will be involved in identifying the secure placement.


9. Application to Court and Placement

Though a young person meeting the criteria for placement may be held in secure accommodation for up to seventy-two hours in any twenty-eight days without the authority of a court, in most cases such authority will be sought.

Application may be made to a Family Proceedings, County or High Court.

The appropriate forms should be completed, Form C1, Form C20, Form C6, Form C6A (if relevant), Form C7.

One day’s notice must be given to the young person, his/her parents, anyone having parental responsibility for him/her, anyone else who had Parental Responsibility when he/she became looked after and to anyone caring for him/her at the time.

The young person must be informed of his/her right to apply for legal aid, and assistance to do so must be given where required. If the young person is not represented at the hearing, the court will not authorise placement in secure accommodation unless satisfied that he/she has had every opportunity to obtain representation but has declined to do so.

An Order may be made for up to three months on the first application and up to six months thereafter.

When a young person is being held in secure accommodation and a decision is made to apply for authorisation to hold him/her further, those concerned with his well being must be informed of this as soon as possible. This will always include the young person him/herself, parents, anyone having parental responsibility for him/her and the Independent Visitor, if he/she has one. In some cases, other significant individuals or organisations may also be identified.


10. The Placement

It is unlikely that a court will grant an application for a Secure Accommodation Order without a placement having been identified. The social worker should contact the Secure Children’s Homes (Referrals) in order to identify a suitable placement.

If this is a justice bed, this is the responsibility of the Youth Offending Team Worker.

Note: Placements in Scotland: Schedule 1, Children and Social Work Act 2017, which came into force in May 2017, now enables local authorities to make placements in Secure accommodation under Sect 25 (1989 Children Act) by amending: the Children Act 1989; the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Consequential and Transitional Provisions, etc. 2013); The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991; Secure Accommodation (Scotland) Regulations 2013 and Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

The issue of restrictions to local authority support for children living abroad (Schedule 2, Children Act 1989) no longer apply to a child placed in secure accommodation in Scotland under Section 25.

The placement details of the young person must be recorded on MOSAIC within 24 hours.


11. Purpose of a Secure Placement

The Secure Accommodation Regulations 15 and 16 set out the requirement for Secure Accommodation Reviews. Regulation 15 requires that the placing authority for a young person in secure accommodation holds a review within one month of the start of the placement and thereafter at intervals not exceeding three months.

The Secure Accommodation Review has the distinct purpose of determining whether the criteria for the child to remain in secure accommodation continue to be met. It needs to be kept separate from the statutory Looked After Children Review procedure that applies to all looked after children. It may be helpful to co-ordinate meetings on the same day, but if so, the Looked After Child Review should always follow the Secure Accommodation Review.

The issues to be considered by the Secure Accommodation Review will differ depending on whether the young person is subject to a Secure Accommodation Order applied for by the local authority under Section 25 or a Secure Remand ordered by the court.

Orders made under Section 25

The Secure Accommodation Review Panel is required to consider whether or not it is now the case:

  1. That the criteria for keeping the young person in Secure Accommodation continue to apply;
  2. That such a placement continues to be necessary, and whether or not any other form of accommodation would be appropriate.

In doing so, the Secure Accommodation Review Panel must have regard to the welfare of the young person. The Secure Accommodation Review must be provided with updated copies of the Child Young Person Plan (previously Care Plan) and Placement Information Record (previously Placement Plan), together with a copy of the prospective exit strategy for the child.

In undertaking the Review, the Secure Accommodation Review Panel must take into account the wishes and feelings of:

  • The young person;
  • Their parent(s) and any person who has Parental Responsibility for them;
  • Any other person who has had the care of the young person, whose views the persons appointed consider should be taken into account;
  • The young person's independent visitor if one has been appointed;
  • The local authority managing the secure accommodation in which the young person is placed if that authority is not the authority who is looking after the child.

The local authority shall also, if practicable, inform all of those whose views are required to be taken into account of the outcome of the review and the reasons for it.

Court Ordered Remand to Local Authority Accommodation


12. The Secure Accommodation Review Panel

Regulations

The regulations state that the placing authority is required to appoint a minimum of three people to any Secure Accommodation Review Panel. They also require that there must be at least one independent member of the Secure Accommodation Review Panel who is not a member or an officer of the local authority that either placed the child or is responsible for the service provided by the secure unit. The regulations do not state who the other members of the panel should be, but it is nationally accepted good practice that they should not be people who have had direct involvement in managing the case and that issues of ethnic background and gender should be addressed in deciding on the make up of the panel.

Chair

The regulations do not set requirements for the appointment of the Chair. However, it is nationally accepted good practice that a Secure Accommodation Review Panel should be chaired by an experienced reviewing officer independent of the case. The preferred option is an independent professional who meets the requirement for an independent panel member (12.1). This will be the Team Manager of the Independent Reviewing Team.

Panel Composition

Once the chair has been appointed and it is clear how the requirement for the attendance of an independent panel member will be met, it will be necessary to appoint up to two further members to the panel. The remaining panel members should either be a senior non-line manager and/or councillor with knowledge of Children's Social Care policy and practice. If a suitable councillor is not available and an additional person is required to ensure that panel is quorate, an additional senior officer without line management responsibility for the case may be appointed. The final composition of the panel must be approved by the Assistant Director for Children's Services.

Attendees to the Review

Other attendees should include the young person, his or her parents or those with parental responsibility, the social worker and relevant staff from the secure unit, including education. It may also be appropriate for the child's advocate and/or guardian to be present. The Head of Service should also determine whether a line manager needs to attend. It is the responsibility of the social worker to invite the necessary people.

Review Panel Process and Recommendation

Review panel members must satisfy themselves that "the criteria for keeping the child in secure accommodation continue to apply and that the placement in such accommodation continues to be appropriate if they are to recommend continuation of the secure placement. In doing so they shall have regard to the submissions of the child whose case is being reviewed and the other attendees and the future requirements of the child.

The Review Panel should first determine whether they will hear the submissions of the attendees as a group or individually. In all cases the child should be given the opportunity to meet with the Review Panel on their own. The Review Panel should in all cases meet separately in closed session after hearing all the submissions to agree their conclusions and recommendations.

Should the Review Panel conclude that the criteria are not met an immediate exit strategy and alternative care plan must be established in consultation with the Head of Service responsible for the case.

Where the Review Panel recommends that a young person remanded to secure accommodation no longer meets the criteria for the restriction of liberty, the local authority may wish to place the young person back before the court prior to their release. This will be particularly advisable where the young person was remanded to a secure as an alternative to being held in youth custody. Legal advice must then be sought immediately to clarify the actions that need to be taken.

It is unlawful for the liberty of a child to be restricted unless one of the criteria is met, no matter how short the period in secure. Secure placements, once made, should be only for so long as is necessary and unavoidable. Care should be taken to ensure that children are not retained in secure simply to complete a pre-determined assessment or treatment programme. It is important that plans are made for continuity of care, education and, where appropriate, access to professional support when the child leaves secure accommodation, with access to child mental services being programmed in advance where they are considered likely by the local authority to be of assistance to the young person.

Looked After Child Reviews

It may be helpful to undertake a statutory Looked After Child Review on the same day as the secure accommodation review. Much of the information considered at the secure review will be similar to the information needed for a statutory review held under the standard Children Act review procedures and it is in the interest of the young person for all relevant care planning and provision matters to be decided on the same occasion if that can be achieved. It may also be helpful for the chair of the secure accommodation review to chair the statutory review as well. However, in order to meet the regulatory requirements the statutory review must be held as a separate meeting.


Appendix 1: Procedure for Seeking the Approval of the Secretary of State

See Secure Children's Homes: How to Place a Child Aged Under 13.

Procedure to be Followed Where The Approval of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Is Sought for the Placement of a Child Under The Age of The Age of Thirteen Years Of Age In A Secure Children's Home

The procedure set out below is from the letter to Directors of children's Services from the Children in Care Division of the Department for Children, Schools and Families dated 20th September 2007.

  1. A local authority wishing to place a child under the age of thirteen in a secure children's home should discuss the case with Jim Brown (telephone 0207 273 5897) in the first instance or, if he is not available, Lorraine Reid (telephone 0207 273 5905) or Kate Lyons (telephone 0207 273 1286) in the Children in Care Division of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Some initial information will be taken over the telephone, such as the name and date of birth of the child concerned, and written documentation will be requested.

    This should be submitted without delay, where possible by email to:

    jim.brown@dcsf.gov.uk (or, as appropriate lorraine.reid@dcsf.gov.uk or kate.lyons@dcsf.gov.uk ) or by fax on 0207 273 5688;
  2. This written documentation will include the following:
    • A full written history/chronology of the child and confirmation of whether the child is currently with the local authority or missing from care (having absconded);
    • A view of the likelihood that a court would find that the criteria for restriction of liberty (under Section 25, Children Act 1989) are satisfied, and an indication of when the local authority is intending to go to court to seek a secure order;
    • An explanation of why a placement in a secure children's home is the most appropriate placement for the child, and whether a bed in a secure children's home has been identified;
    • An indication of the alternatives to a placement in a secure children's home that have been considered and why these have been rejected;
    • The aims and objectives of the secure placement;
    • A copy of the contemporary care plan to cover the period of the secure placement, including a prospective exit strategy; and
    • Agreement in writing - at Assistant Director level or above - to seek the approval of the Secretary of state for children, Schools and Families.
  3. Officials from this Department will then discuss the information provided with one of the specialist secure accommodation inspectors at the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills who will make a recommendation as to whether the approval of the Secretary of Sate should be given;
  4. The Department will then consider and advise the local authority of the Secretary of State's decision. Where an application is approved, a letter and certificate will be issued to the local authority on the same day via email or fax (whichever is more convenient). The signed, hard copy will be sent to the Assistant Director or equivalent that supported the application by the local authority;
  5. Local authorities should ensure that applications for the approval of the Secretary of Sate are made during office hours and at the earliest possible time. However, where in exceptional circumstances this is not possible, the local authority should telephone the Department's "out of hours" telephone number, 0207 972 3000 and ask for the Children in Care Division Duty Officer;
  6. Please note that where applications to place a child under the age of thirteen years of age in a secure children's home are made outside normal office hours, the letter and certificate confirming the Secretary of State's approval will not be issued until the next working day.

End