From May 2016, referrals for secure welfare placements by local authorities in England have been made through the Secure Welfare Co-ordination Unit (SWCU). The SWCU was 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. From 2 October 2017, the SWCU will also be taking referrals from local authorities in Wales.

Guidance Notes

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.

Download Guidance Notes


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 (for placements in a SCH in England), or in section 119 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (for placements in a SCH in Wales). These Acts stipulate that a child being looked after by the local authority may not be placed and if placed may not be kept, in 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) / Section 119(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) / Section 119(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

When making an application to court if at the time you are unsure if the placement will be in Wales or England, you should fill in the application form so that it is expressed in the alternative so that the application is made either for a Section 119 order or a Section 25 order and then you can tell the judge on the day of the hearing where the placement will be and therefore what sort of order you are asking the court to make.

If the court made a Section 119 order for Wales but then the child needed to be moved to England it would require an application back to the court to get a section 25 order to authorise the placement in England, and vice versa for Welsh placements.


Making a Referral

To make referrals for young people that meet the Section 25 / Section 119 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 SWCU. The SWCU can also be contacted on 01962 846432 for more information on secure welfare placements.

The SWCU’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 SWCU.


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 SWCU 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 SWCU.

Download 72 Hour Authorisation Template (Welsh Local Authorities)


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 (local authorities in England) or the Welsh Ministers (local authorities in Wales). For children under 13 please download and follow the relevant approval process below.

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

The Department for Education have published guidance for English local authorities seeking approval to place children under the age of 13 in secure care.

Link to Process for Children Under 13 (English Local Authorities)

Download Process for Children Under 13 (Welsh Local Authorities)

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.

Welsh local authorities should refer to chapter 7 of the Part 6 Code of Practice (Looked After and Accommodated Children).