The Secure Welfare Coordination Unit (SWCU) has been collecting data on welfare placements in secure children’s homes since 2016. Data from the secure children’s homes is collected by the SWCU on a daily basis. The unit collects data on all aspects of referrals for young people and the outcomes of those referrals, including where there have been challenges to making placements. This data is used by the sector and by the DfE to build greater understanding of what is working and where changes may be needed in the future
A monthly summary of the data on is available to view here. The summary includes data on secure welfare bed availability, referrals, placements before secure and placements on exiting secure. This data is experimental and has developed over time in order to support the sector. The use of the SWCU is not mandated so this data does not cover each placement and it is only based on referrals received through the SWCU. This is not an official statistical release, it is collected over a short time series and is intended only to provide summary of the secure welfare estate.
The DfE are aware of the current challenges around bed availability and capacity within the sector. There are a number of factors which affect bed availability and occupancy rates. A secure children’s home must assess each referral received and make a decision on whether the young person is an appropriate match for their home, this is based upon the profile of the other young people in the secure unit, their current staffing level and the needs of the young person the local authority is seeking to place. The registered manager of the secure children’s home always has the authority to refuse a referral and has a responsibility to ensure all children in their home are kept safe. The DfE does not have a direct role in the commissioning of secure children’s homes beds or the placing of individual children requiring secure care and the SWCU has no powers to place individual children or to compel managers of homes to accept referrals but works with secure homes to help facilitate the finding of a suitable placement for any children who are referred.
The DfE have agreed with Ministers to take forward a reform programme within the secure children’s home sector which will include the formation of a central commissioner of beds and the development of new secure welfare provision to increase capacity in the sector and continue to support the sector through the Capital Grants Programme which has provided £40m worth of funding to homes for renovations and to extend units to increase the number of beds.
The Secure Welfare Coordination Unit has created a guidance booklet to support the referral process for a secure welfare placement. The booklet includes the process, statement of responsibility, FAQ’s and mock referrals.
This guidance booklet can be found on the Referrals page.
A secure welfare placement is a placement route which is not taken lightly by a local authority as it entails depriving a young person of their liberty. When this decision is taken, a young person can be informed of the decision in different manners and, at the time a decision is made, it can be unknown to the young person what a placement within a secure children’s home will look like for them, or even how long they might reside there.
A young person who has resided within a secure children’s home on welfare grounds has written an account of their journey within the placement and the positive impact it had on her.