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5.2.5 Placements in Secure Accommodation

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to the placements of Looked After Children in secure accommodation on welfare grounds. 

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

DfE, Secure Children’s Homes: How to Place a Child Aged Under 13

DfE, Court Orders and Pre-proceedings for Local Authorities (2014)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and refreshed in May 2016 to reflect current processes and organisation decision-making.


Contents

1. Secure Accommodation Review
1.1 Placement on Welfare Grounds 
2. Decision to Place in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds
2.1 Consultation
2.2 Approvals
2.3 Court Application
2.4 Where the Secretary of State’s Approval is Required
3. Planned Placements
3.1 Definition of Planned Placement
3.2 Placement Request and Identification
3.3 Placement Planning
3.4 Notification of Placement
4. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements
4.1  Support and Monitoring of Placements
4.2 Ending of Placements


1. Secure Accommodation Criteria

1.1 Placement on Welfare Grounds

Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 sets out the ‘welfare’ criteria which must be met before a child Looked After by the local authority may be placed in secure accommodation. 

The ‘Welfare’ criteria are:

  • That the child has a history of absconding (see note below) and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation; and
  • If the child absconds, s/he is likely to suffer Significant Harm, or that;
  • If the child is kept in any other description of accommodation s/he is likely to injure her/himself or others.

The use of secure accommodation should be for the minimum period necessary, following an assessment of likely risk to the child, others and public safety.

A child must not continue to have his/her liberty restricted once the criteria cease to apply, even if there is a Court Order currently in existence.

The Director can approve such placements for up to 72 hours in an emergency. Only a Court can grant permission for placements beyond 72 hours.

A Child Looked After who meets the above criteria may be placed in secure accommodation for a maximum period of 72 hours in any 28 day period, without Court authority (except where the 72 hour period expires on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday when the period can be extended to the next working day).

A Court may authorise a child to be kept in secure accommodation for a maximum period of:

  • 3 months on the first application to the Court;
  • 6 months on subsequent applications to the Court.

A Child Looked After may not be placed in secure accommodation when:

  • Under the age of 13, unless the Secretary of State gives prior specific approval;
  • Over 16 and has asked to be accommodated;
  • Accommodation would be or is being provided on a voluntary basis and a parent objects to a secure placement.


2. Decision to Place in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds

2.1 Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement in secure accommodation on welfare grounds may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  1. The child;
  2. The child’s parents;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child’s family who are significant to the child;
  5. The child’s school or education authority;
  6. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  7. The child's Independent Visitor if appointed;
  8. The Local Authority managing the Secure Accommodation in which the child is placed if that Authority is not the Authority with responsibility for looking after the child.

2.2 Approvals

Any decision to place a child in a secure placement on welfare grounds can only be made with the specific approval of the Director and, if made, must be notified to those consulted and the child’s Independent Visitor. Where the child does not have an Independent Visitor, arrangements must be made for such an appointment as soon as practicable.

To seek the approval of the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation), the child’s social worker must prepare a written report addressing the following areas:

  • Name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, school, names of those with parental responsibility;
  • Grounds/concerns/criteria/aims of proposed secure placement;
  • Evidence that the criteria are met;
  • What alternatives have been tried/considered and the outcomes;
  • The view of the child and the parents;
  • The comments of the Children's Social Care Manager.

The Director will only approve a request to place a child in secure accommodation where:

  • The Criteria for Secure Placements (as set out above) are met;
  • Secure accommodation is the only appropriate method of dealing with the child;
  • Alternatives have been comprehensively considered and rejected;
  • There is a clear view of the aims and objectives of such a placement.

Where the Director agrees that a secure placement on welfare grounds is appropriate, the social worker must contact Legal Services as a matter of urgency regarding the application for a Secure Accommodation Order

In relation to a child under 13, the approval of the Secretary of State will also be required and, after the approval of the Designated Manager Director has been obtained, a written request should immediately be sent to the Secretary of State containing the same information as in the report to the Designated Manager - see Section 2.4, Where the Secretary of State's Approval is Required.

2.3 Court Application

The child’s social worker must liaise with Legal Services regarding the preparation of evidence to support the application including a Care Plan with the aims and objectives of the placement set out and details of the intended plan to return the child to open conditions.

The social worker should prepare the child for the Court hearing, by explaining the procedure and the possible outcomes, and by advising him or her of the right and supporting them to be legally represented at the hearing.

The social worker should also book a secure escort for the hearing.

Where the placement is required before there is time to obtain a Secure Accommodation Order, the Director can authorise the placement for up to 72 hours. Such a placement will be regarded as an Emergency Placement and the Emergency Placement Procedure - to follow must be followed.

2.4 Where the Secretary of State’s Approval is Required

The case should first be discussed with the Department for Education Children Looked After Division Duty Officer. Some initial information will be taken over the phone, such as the name and date of birth of the child concerned, and written documentation will be requested. This should be submitted without delay, where possible, by e-mail or by fax.

This written documentation will include the following:

  • A full written history/chronology of the child and whether the child is with the local authority or absent;
  • A view of the likelihood that a court would find that the criteria for restriction of liberty are satisfied and an indication of when the local authority is intending to go to court to obtain a secure order;
  • An explanation of why secure accommodation is the only appropriate method of dealing with the child and whether a bed in secure children’s home has been secured;
  • An indication of the alternatives to secure accommodation that have been considered and why these have been rejected;
  • The aims and objectives of the secure placement;
  • A copy of a contemporary Care Plan which includes a prospective exit strategy from secure accommodation; and
  • A written agreement - signed by the Director - to seek the Secretary of State’s approval.

The Department for Education will discuss this information with appropriate inspectors at the Regulatory Authority, who will make a recommendation as to whether the Secretary of State’s approval should be given.

The Department for Education will then consider and advise the local authority of the Secretary of State’s decision.

Local authorities should ensure that, in order to expedite early decisions, applications for the Secretary of State’s approval are made during office hours.

However, where in exceptional circumstances this is not possible, the local authority should telephone the Department for Education out of hours telephone number and ask for the Children Looked After Division Duty Officer.


3. Planned Placements

3.1 Definition of Planned Placement

A Planned Placement in secure accommodation is the placement of a Looked After child following an assessment and planning process whereby, at the time of the placement, a Care Plan and Placement Plan are in place and a Secure Accommodation Order has been made.

All planned secure placements will have been discussed and be recommended by the Accommodation Panel and will be require the approval of the Director.

Where the placement is made with the authority of the Director but no Court Order, the placement is deemed to be an Emergency. 

See Emergency Placement Procedures - to follow.

The planning, review, supervision and contact requirements in respect of the child in secure accommodation are the same as those for any other child Looked After.

3.2 Placement Request and Identification

Where the child’s social worker considers that a child requires a secure placement, the procedure for obtaining a placement is the same as for all residential placements and is set out in full in Placements in Residential Care Procedure.

3.3 Placement Planning

Each secure unit will have its own placement planning procedure and therefore the social worker should liaise direct with the provider to establish this.

Before the child is placed, the child’s social worker will liaise with the manager of the home to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting. If this is not possible prior to the placement, it must take place within 24 hours of the placement.

The child, parents and any other significant family members and relevant professionals should also be invited. 

The purpose of the meeting is to share information about the child and the Care Plan, complete/update the necessary documentation about the child plan the timing of the placement and ensure that a Placement Plan recorded is drawn up.

The Placement Plan should cover the same issues as those listed in Placements in Children's Homes Procedure.

Following the meeting, the child’s social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the RIR and Care Plan to the child, parents, IRO and home manager. The child’s social worker and manager of the home will arrange for the Placement Plan recorded to be drawn up.

The social worker should ensure that any Children’s Guide, accommodation pack or other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her.

The social worker must also ensure that the child is provided with information on using the authority’s Complaints Procedure.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.

3.4 Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will notify the LAC Nurse, the Educational Support Team and the child’s GP. If the placement is outside the Borough, the administrative staff must also notify the Children’s Social Care Services and the local education service for the area where the child is placed.

The notifications must advise of the placement decision, the name and address of the new carers, details relating to the child’s contact with parents and the arrangements related to the care and welfare of the child.

Notification of the placement must also be sent by the child’s social worker to all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process. The notification should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.

The social worker must also ensure that the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician; and that a Health Care Assessment takes place as necessary.

The social worker must also confirm the placement within 24 hours by e-mail to the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation). 

The Administrative staff must also notify the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer, and make arrangements for a review meeting within 28 days- see Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure - to follow.


4. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements

4.1 Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child’s social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at every six weeks; see procedures in Social Worker Visits Procedure.

4.2 Ending of Placements

The social worker must update ICS and inform the Commissioning Manager that the placement has ended to ensure that the placement fees cease.

End