Professionals have renewed calls for a national strategy for local authority secure children’s homes after a government survey identified the need for radical changes.
Research by the Department for Education and Skills, which had been leaked to Community Care (Councils unsure on secure home quality, 18 May) but was published in full last week, found councils lacked confidence in homes’ provision.
The survey, prompted by a fall in referrals to secure welfare beds, found that, although half of placements had helped to change young people’s behaviour, the other half had poor outcomes.
The study of 13 councils also found some were using alternative provision, such as specialist foster care.
Mary Graham, chair of the Secure Accommodation Network, which represents 24 local authority secure homes in England and Wales, claimed most councils had limited knowledge of secure homes.
She also questioned whether homes had enough investment. “Several units now require major investment which local authorities cannot and will not provide for services that they may use infrequently,” she said.
Graham also raised concerns that some alternative providers could be operating illegally. “No court scrutinises the plans and no criteria meetings are held to decide whether the restrictions are needed or appropriate,” she said.
“These are some of the most damaged and marginalised children in the country yet there is no national plan or strategy for their care. That is an appalling indictment of how child care is being disregarded.”