From May 2016, referrals for secure welfare placements are made through the National Secure Welfare Commissioning Unit (NSWCU). The NSWCU has been created to provide a dedicated single point of contact for secure welfare placements and streamline the process of finding the most suitable placement matching the individual needs of each young person needing secure care. All available options for each young person are considered, enabling informed decisions about the most appropriate placement.

A flowchart detailing the lifecycle of the NSWCU referral process can be downloaded below.

Download NSWCU Referral Process


Meeting the Criteria for Secure Accommodation
Secure accommodation welfare placements are available for young people that meet the criteria set out in Section 25 of the 1989 Children’s Act. The Act stipulates 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
  2. If he/she absconds he/she is likely to suffer significant harm (Section 25(1)(a)); or
  3. 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


Making a Referral

To make referrals for young people that meet the Section 25 criteria please download and complete the SCH Referral Form. If the young person is aged between 13 and 17 this is the only referral paperwork required.

If the referral is for:

  1. an Emergency 72 Hour Placement, or
  2. a Child under 13

please indicate this on the referral form and also follow the appropriate additional process below for these special cases. Completed SCH Referral Forms and any supporting documentation (for Emergency 72 Hour placements or for children under 13) should be securely emailed to the NSWCU. The NSWCU can also be contacted on 01962 846432 for more information on secure welfare placements.

The NSWCU’s working hours are Monday to Friday 08.30 – 17:00. If you require assistance outside of these hours, please call the unit on 01962 846432 where a message facility will inform you of where there is Welfare bed availability. Contact should then be made directly to the Secure Children’s Homes with vacancies with your request. A Secure Children’s Home referral form will need to be completed for the Home and a copy also sent to the NSWCU.


Emergency 72 Hour Cases

For emergency cases, the Assistant Director may apply the 72 hour rule and authorise in writing the holding of a young person for up to 72 hours.

Please indicate that an emergency 72 hour placement is required on the SCH Referral Form. Liaison with the NSWCU will identify the most appropriate accommodation for the young person.

The Authorisation letter template below should then be completed, on the letterhead of the referring authority, and issued to the manager of the home identified with the NSWCU. A copy of this letter should also be forwarded to the NSWCU.


Welfare referrals for Children under the age of 13

It is possible to make a welfare placement for children under the age of 13 but this requires approval from the Secretary of State. For children under 13 please download and follow the DfE approval process below.

For approved applications, the approval letter and certificate should be sent to the NSWCU along with a completed SCH referral form. Please indicate where prompted on the referral form that the placement is for a child under 13.

Download Process for Children Under 13

Further Information

More detailed information on the process for applying maintaining and reviewing a welfare placement within a secure children’s home can be found in the Welfare Placement Guidance.