Secure units see large rise in children under 14

Children in local authority secure units are getting younger,
and are staying for longer.

Government statistics show that the number of children under 14
in secure units increased by more than 30 per cent between March
1999 and March 2003, from 55 to 80 children.

As a proportion, under-14s increased from 16 to 19 per cent of
the total, which has risen in four years from 340 to 420. The
number of young teenagers in secure accommodation has been
increasing since 1995 when there were only 15 children aged 13 or
younger out of a total of 235.

There are also more children who have been in secure
accommodation for at least six months. The proportion increased
from 16 per cent (55 children) to 22 per cent (90 children) between
1999 and 2003.

There are 31 secure units in England and Wales with a total of
445 places between them. The occupancy rate for secure
accommodation has increased from 75 per cent in 1999 to 94 per cent
this year.

When the Youth Justice Board was set up in 2001, it took control
of 60 per cent of secure unit places, although this has now dropped
to 55 per cent.

Before then most children in secure units were either
accommodated by local authorities, or in care, under the Children
Act 1989. Since 2001 a growing proportion of children in secure
units have been convicted and sentenced to a detention and training
order – 42 per cent in 2003.

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