The Department for Education has overall policy responsibility for Secure Children’s Homes in England and Wales. The DFE works in partnership with Ofsted to ensure that each home is providing safe, effective care for the young people that have been placed through the courts. The DFE guides and supports the homes with implementation of national minimum standards and regulations so that they comply with all necessary statutory and regulatory standards. The DFE also preside over national funding grants in order to support and maintain a high quality of living standards within children’s secure accommodation.Each secure children’s home contains a complete school that provides at least 25hrs of education per week for young people. The DfE are the regulatory authority that ensure good quality educational support is provided to every young person in a secure home, in partnership with Ofsted who are the regulatory inspectors for the school.
Secure Children’s Homes are monitored and inspected to an extremely high standard with their own set of national minimum standards throughout England and Wales. Each home is granted a license by Ofsted to operate for up to 3 years at a time based on passing the inspection criteria and standards under statutory regulation. Ofsted are responsible for inspecting each home with unannounced inspections twice a year – one full inspection and one interim. Each home has a further inspection every three years that includes the educational facilities. Ofsted has overall governing responsibility to ensure that young people are kept safe within Secure Children’s Homes. Each home’s report is available upon request from the individual home.
Youth Justice Board (YJB)
The Youth Justice Board contracts with 10 of the 17 secure children’s homes, to provide secure accommodation for young people who are committed by the courts to undertake a custodial sentence in secure accommodation (10yrs old to 17yrs old). The YJB has contractual obligations to ensure that the accommodation in the secure children’s homes that it commissions is adequate to meet the needs of the vulnerable young people in their care. The YJB monitors and evaluates each commissioned home on a monthly basis and holds regular reviews.
The magistrates in each local authority have the responsibility to preside over the welfare of young people presented before them. Young people (aged 10-17yrs old) have two routes into a secure children’s home. One route is from a criminal conviction that is so severe in nature that only a custodial sentence is appropriate. In these cases secure children’s homes are used for the most vulnerable young people. The other route is for a S25 (S25 Children Act 1989) welfare order that has been applied for by a local authority to keep a young person safe.
For an S25 placement the Local Authority must be able to demonstrate that the young person:
• has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation AND
• if they absconds they are likely to suffer significant harm OR
• if they are kept in any other description of accommodation they are likely to injure themself or other persons.
Magistrates must consider the views of the local authority in welfare cases, which are normally presented by the decision of a secure criteria panel, which has met before any such court hearing. The views of the young person are presented from themselves and also from solicitors and appointed guardians.
Department of Health
The Department of Health has policy authority for children in care with regards to their health. They work in partnership with the DfE and Ofsted to ensure that the young people in secure accommodation have their health needs met. This includes primary, secondary and mental health needs.
Local authorities manage all but one of the secure children’s homes in England and Wales. St Catherine’s is operated by a charity organization. The local authority is under a duty of care to ensure that the young people in the secure children’s homes are kept safe and given the best possible care. The local authority manages all staff, including the registered manager, that have responsibility for the overall management of the homes. The local authority also employs the ‘responsible officer’ for the home under Ofsted regulation. The local authority ensures the effective operation of the home through the statutory inspection framework under regulation 33. Monthly visits are undertaken to inspect the home. They also provide safeguarding responsibility measures through independent systems for complaints and social care safeguarding practice.
Young people placed in a secure children’s home under S25 welfare grounds or remanded by the courts under criminal procedures will have an assigned social worker. The young person is a ‘child in care’. This means they are entitled to statutory requirements for ‘looked after children’ and will have regular reviews of their care while in the home – care planning. Social workers have the responsibility to ensure that the young person has their needs met effectively and is safe, free from harm and that there well-being is taken into consideration at all times.
Secure Children’s homes work in partnership with many external agencies to provide specialist care for the vulnerable young people in its care. This typically includes Substance misuse agencies, Children’s and Adolescent’s Mental Health Support, Advocacy Services, Essay Writing Service UK, Primary and Secondary health support and Vocational instructors. There are also many different charities offering specialist input, such as Barnados and Voice. The advocacy service also provides independent complaints procedures for young people in secure care.
Secure Children’s home often work in partnership with many private organizations to find suitable care in the community for vulnerable young people with specialist needs. This is very important to ensure effective transition for young people leaving secure accommodation.