SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to the placements of looked after children in secure accommodation under Section 25 Children Act 1989 - often referred to as being 'on welfare grounds'.
See also Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure which deals with remands to youth detention accommodation (which includes Secure Children's Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions) in criminal proceedings.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in June 2019 to fully reflect the updated guidance 'Secure children's homes: how to place a child aged under 13 (July 2018)'. (See Section 6, Placements of Children under the age of 13 Years).
Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 sets out the 'welfare' criteria which must be met before a Looked After Child may be placed in secure accommodation.
The 'welfare' criteria are that:
N.B. Only one of these two criteria above need be established. The welfare principle (established in Section 1 the Children Act 1989), although it remains relevant, is not of paramount consideration under Section 25.
Section 25 only applies to 'Looked After' children, i.e. those children:
In exceptional circumstances, if a child is not 'looked after' or the placement of the child is thought to constitute a deprivation of the child's liberty, (even though it is not its primary purpose), an application would need to be made to the High Court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction. Such an approach would require careful consideration and include a full review of the placement and the child's circumstances together with the Children's Services Legal Team.
Prior to admission to Secure Accommodation, a written agreement concerning the placement should be made between the local authority and the parents to include the purpose of admission, expected duration and the arrangements for bringing the placement to an end. (See also Section 7.2, Placement Planning).
Children Act 1989 Section 20 provides:
Re P (Application for Secure Accommodation Order)  EWHC 2971 clarified the situation with regard to a child reaching the age of 16 years and Section 20 Accommodation:
Young people aged 16 or 17 years have the right to discharge themselves from Section 20(5) accommodation and, consequently, from Secure Accommodation. Nevertheless, where the local authority continues to have concerns about the safety of the young person, a decision should be made as to whether to commence care proceedings and seek an Interim Care Order and Secure Accommodation Order.
The use of secure accommodation should be for the minimum period necessary, following an assessment of likely risk to the child, others and public safety.
A child must not continue to have his/her liberty restricted once the criteria cease to apply, even if there is a Secure Accommodation Order still in existence. (See Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Review Procedure).
The Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation) can approve such placements for up to 72 hours in an emergency. Only a Court can grant permission for placements beyond 72 hours.
A Looked After Child who meets the above criteria may be placed in secure accommodation for a maximum period of 72 hours in any 28 days period without a Secure Accommodation Order.
Note: Where a young person is under 13 the prior approval of the Secretary of State is required. (See Section 6, Placements of Children under the age of 13 Years).
The provisions are relaxed to cover the situation where the 72 hour period expires late on Saturday, a Sunday or public holiday.
The Regulations provide that, where a child is placed in secure accommodation at any time between 12 midday on the day before and 12 midday on the day after a public holiday or a Sunday, and:
then, the maximum period (of 72 hours) shall be treated as if it did not expire until 12 midday on the first working day after the public holiday or Sunday.
A Court may authorise a child to be kept in Secure Accommodation for a maximum period of:
N.B. Any time spent in Secure Accommodation prior to the Court Order is disregarded in respect of the above time limits.
A Looked After child may not be placed in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds where he/she:
At the point that it is determined that a placement in Secure Accommodation may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:
Any decision to place a child in a secure placement on welfare grounds can only be made with the specific approval of the Director of Children's Services and, if made, must be notified to those consulted and the child's Independent Visitor. Where the child does not have an Independent Visitor, arrangements must be made for such an appointment as soon as practicable.
To seek the approval of the Director, the child's social worker must prepare a written report with the following information:
The Director of Children's Services will only approve a request to place a child in secure accommodation where the following have been considered in a Legal Gateway Planning Meeting:
Where the Director of Children's Services agrees that a secure placement on welfare grounds is appropriate, the social worker must contact Legal Services as a matter of urgency regarding the application to Court for a Secure Accommodation Order.
In relation to a child under 13 years, the approval of the Secretary of State will also be required and, after the approval of the Director of Children's Services has been obtained, a written request should immediately be sent to the Secretary of State - see Section 6, Placements of Children under the age of 13 years.
The social worker should also book a secure escort for the hearing.
Where the placement is required before there is time to obtain a Secure Accommodation Order, the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation) can authorise the placement for up to a maximum of 72 hours.
A placement of a child under the age of 13 years can only be made with the approval of the Secretary of State. This summarises the procedures for obtaining approval.
See Department for Education for contact information.
Some initial information will be taken over the phone, such as:
This written documentation will include the following:
The Department for Education will discuss this information with appropriate inspectors at the regulatory authority, who will make a recommendation as to whether the Secretary of State's approval should be given. The Department for Education will then consider and advise the local authority of the Secretary of State's decision. This will usually be the same day and a certificate will also be sent out.
Local authorities should ensure that, in order to expedite early decisions, applications for the Secretary of State's approval are made during office hours. However, where in exceptional circumstances this is not possible, the local authority should telephone the Out of Hours Care Duty Officer at the Department for Education.
As long as the criteria for Section 25 are met and are deemed appropriate, verbal approval can be given. An email confirming the approval of the assistant director level (or above) along with the documentation that supports the application needs to be sent the following working day. Once the documents have been assessed a certificate will be issued that confirms the Secretary of State’s approval.
Where the child's social worker considers that a Looked After Child requires a secure placement, and following agreement with the Agency Decision Maker, the social worker should contact the Secure Children's Homes (Referrals) in order to identify a suitable placement.
Each secure unit contacted will require basic information, including legal status, reasons why a secure placement is needed and details of any arson/criminal damage, violence, harmful sexual behaviour and concerns around child criminal or sexual exploitation.
The terms and conditions of the placement must be approved by the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation) and included in the contract with the provider in relation to the placement.
If a placement is offered, the home is likely to need written confirmation of an undertaking to pay the stated fee and, where relevant, written confirmation of authorisation for a 72 hours placement, together with copies of the Interim Care or full Care Order and the DfE 'Certificate' for Children under 13 years. A copy of the Secure Order (when such an application has been made) will also be required in all cases.
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.
Each secure unit will have its own Placement Planning Procedure and therefore, once a placement has been identified, the social worker should liaise directly with the provider to establish this.
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the manager of the home to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting. If this is not possible prior to the placement, it must be held in order that the Placement Plan is completed within 5 working days of the start of the placement.
The child, parents, and any other significant family members and relevant professionals should be invited to attend.
The purpose of the meeting is to share information about the child and the Care Plan, complete/update the necessary documentation about the child, plan the timing of the placement and ensure that a Placement Plan/Placement Information Record is drawn up.
The Placement Plan should cover the same issues as those listed in the Placements Manual for Commissioned Placements
Following the meeting, the child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan to the child, parents, IRO and manager of the Unit. The child's social worker and manager of the Unit will arrange for the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to be drawn up and circulated to the child and parents.The child's social worker must provide the child and parents with written information about the Looked After Service. The social worker must also ensure that the child is provided with information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure. (see Complaints and Representations Procedure).
The social worker should ensure that any Children's Guide or other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her.In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.
The child's social worker must ensure that the relevant finance officer of the placement is notified of the placement within one working day (so that the appropriate arrangements to pay the provider are in place) and update the child's electronic records.
The social worker must also ensure that notification of the placement is sent to the independent reviewing officer, the health clinical commissioning group (CCG) and education services (including the Virtual Head), the child's GP and Children's Services for the area where the child is placed.
The notifications must advise of the placement decision, the name and address of the new carers, details relating to the child's contact with parents and the arrangements related to the care and welfare of the child.
Notification of the placement must also be sent by the child's social worker to all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process.
The social worker must also ensure that the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician; the child's home Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and the CCG for the area where the child is placed (as this is likely to be different from the child's home CCG) should be informed also. The social worker should also ensure that a health care assessment takes place as necessary. (Note: where a child moves into another CCG area, any treatment or service should be continued uninterrupted).
The notification should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.
The social worker must also confirm the placement within 24 hours by e-mail to the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation).
The social worker must also notify the child's independent reviewing officer, and make arrangements for a review meeting within 28 days - see Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure.
Note: The child's Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Review is distinct and separate from the Looked After Review.
The child's social worker must liaise with Legal Services regarding the preparation of evidence to support the application, including a Care Plan with the aims and objectives of the placement set out and details of the intended plan to return the child to open conditions.
The social worker should prepare the child for the Court hearing, by explaining the procedure and the possible outcomes, and by advising him or her of the right to be legally represented at the hearing.
Once made, an application can only be withdrawn with the permission of the court.
7 days before the date of the hearing (unless the court has directed a shorter period), respondents should be served with:
The Care Plan should detail, as far as possible, the care arrangements for the child, education provision and any other professional support, both within the Secure Accommodation and after the placement ends.
An adjournment may be justified either for reasons of procedural fairness or in order to obtain further information. Otherwise, the court should proceed to consider the substantive application.
Where a court adjourns an application for a secure accommodation order, it may make an interim order permitting the child to be kept in secure accommodation during the period of adjournment.The child/local authority may appeal to the High Court against the making, or refusal to make, an order.
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then every six weeks; see procedures in Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.
Once the Secure Accommodation Criteria Review establishes that the child no longer meets the criteria for Section 25 Secure Accommodation, the exit plan/Care Plan should be expedited, (see Section 3, Period of Secure Accommodation).
It is therefore important that the placement is carefully monitored with regard to the child's progress, both in terms of any additional specialist assessments that may be required and commissioned, and also in respect of the 'exit plan' that will have been established at the point of admission and developed at subsequent Looked After Reviews.
Where children are Section 20 Accommodated, then it will be particularly important to maintain visits and communication with the parents and others who have Parental Responsibility.
If the parent does not agree with the nature of the exit placement required which is being, or has been, assessed and considered as meeting the child's needs, then urgent consideration must be made as to whether Care Proceedings are required. (See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure).
Many children's placements in Secure Accommodation go well in the light of the clear structure and regime that such Units offer and feedback from staff / specialist reports should seek to focus on: the child's insight into their behaviour; development of confidence and self esteem; relationships with other residents, staff and family; progress in areas such as education and health/emotional health, (which may well have been of concern previously), etc.
A sign of progress will be when the child achieves 'mobility' and is allowed out of the Unit albeit on an escorted basis and in a planned way.
The Secure Accommodation Unit will seek permission from the social worker for mobility and this should be responded to promptly. The Unit should provide details of the activity to be undertaken, together with the support and management of that to ensure the young person continues to be safeguarded and does not abscond.
Written agreement for mobility should be provided by the Nominated Officer, who should have all the necessary information, including a report on the child's progress, to make the decision.
'Timing' for the next, exit placement is often not easy but is clearly important. Planning for the exit placement should not be left until before the next Secure Accommodation Order Hearing, or when the Order lapses, given that the criteria for Secure Accommodation may no longer be met before either of these events. Progressing the exit placement should begin significantly before it is thought the child will be ready and will start by researching possible options and exchanging some information etc.
Identifying a specific placement should therefore be made in a timely way so as to ensure the proposed placement has all the relevant and most up to date information, as well as positively being able to reflect on the progress the child may have made.
Irrespective of the child's legal status, the parents/those with Parental Responsibility, should be involved and consulted about the exit placement.
Clearly, if the child is Section 20 Accommodated, then agreement with the parent is required.
Transferring to the Exit placement should be undertaken as for any Looked After Child.
When leaving the secure accommodation begins to emerge as a possibility, a discussion with the child about transition from the secure accommodation should be undertaken and the future carers or staff should visit the child in the secure accommodation placement to ensure a full exchange of information as well as an introduction.
A visit by the child to the next placement should be undertaken where possible.
When the child has transferred from the Secure Accommodation Unit, the child's social worker should notify the relevant finance officer within one working day of the placement ending (so that the arrangements to pay the provider will be terminated) and update the child's electronic record.
The social worker should also inform all those notified of the placement (including the IRO) that the placement has ended.