Secure Welfare Co-ordination Unit
The Secure Welfare Coordination Unit (SWCU) is a small unit grant funded by the Department for Education (DfE) for the purposes of administering placements and collecting data on secure welfare. It is not a legal entity and therefore does not have a Director The SWCU provides a transparent, dedicated single point of contact for local authorities in England and Wales, to arrange secure welfare placements and streamline the process of finding the most suitable placement matching the individual needs of each young person needing secure care. The SWCU is committed to ensuring the best outcomes for all children needing secure placements. Data from the Secure Children’s Homes is collected by the SWCU on a daily basis. Referrals are then sent to homes if a secure place is available. The home will then indicate whether they can accept the young person.
To make a placement or to learn more about the referrals process, please visit the referrals page.
Neither the Secure Welfare Co-ordination unit, nor the Secretary of State has a direct role in the commissioning of secure places for individual young people on welfare grounds. It is for the local authority to come to a view as to the appropriate placement for an individual child, and for the person with management responsibility for the Secure Children’s Home with available places to decide whether to take the child. Under The Children’s Homes Regulations (England) Regulations 2015, (Regulation 14(2)(a)) – the registered person (i.e. the provider of the home) must ensure that children are admitted to the home only if their needs are within the range of needs of children for whom it is intended that the home is to provide care and accommodation, as set out in the homes statement of purpose. A secure home will therefore consider the existing cohort of young people in their care, their needs, the skills and ability of the staff to manage and meet their needs when considering any new application.
Individual local authorities should have their own placement policy based on the Department for Education’s Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. There are currently 14 secure children’s homes (SCHs) in England – 13 run directly by the local authorities in which they operate; one run by a charity. The SCHs take referrals from local authorities across the country seeking a secure placement under section 25 of the Children Act 1989, and also provide accommodation for some children who have been found guilty of crimes and given a custodial sentence. The final decision on making a welfare placement remains with the placing local authority and the manager of the receiving secure children’s home.
While there is no absolute duty to provide secure accommodation in their area, there are general duties on local authorities to provide accommodation for looked-after children. In particular, section 22G of the Children Act 1989 imposes a duty on each local authority to take steps that ensure so far as reasonably practicable that they are able to provide accommodation in their area that meets the needs of children who are looked after by that local authority and fall within the section 22G(3) criteria. This is commonly known as the ‘sufficiency duty’. In taking steps to secure that outcome the local authority must have regard to the benefit of having a number and range of accommodation providers that is, in their opinion, sufficient and capable of meeting different needs. Statutory guidance has been issued on securing sufficient accommodation for looked after children.
A major benefit of the unit is that detailed information from all the Secure Children’s Homes in England and Wales, including each home’s specialisms, and the young people placed in them will be held in one place. This has the advantage of ensuring that all options for a young person can be considered enabling informed decisions about the most appropriate placement for them. This much-needed data will prove invaluable in terms of learning what is working and where changes may be needed. We will also be building national profiles for England and Wales on the young people referred including complexities and needs.
The Secure Welfare Co-ordination Unit will maintain up to date availability information across all Secure Children’s Homes providing secure welfare care. The centralized unit will also be able to gain a much clearer understanding of the volume, demand and need profile of young people needing secure welfare accommodation. The unit will collect 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 coordinated information will be shared with the sector for its strategic development and will ultimately support Ministers to make decisions on the future of the sector.
Please contact the SWCU if you have any questions or comments about our service. We welcome any feedback and look forward to working alongside all Local Authorities and Secure Children’s Homes. The SWCU’s working hours are Monday to Friday 08.30 – 17:00.
Secure Welfare Co-ordination Unit
Hampshire County Council,
EII Court North,
Telephone: 01962 846432.