A row has broken out between secure children’s homes managers and the Youth Justice Board over the removal of vulnerable 15-year-olds from secure children’s homes.
Four children allegedly were moved from one home within 24 hours by the YJB’s placement team due to a national shortage of beds, according to the Secure Accommodation Network. The YJB had been alerted to the possibility of a high number of younger children appearing in courts towards the end of the week and arguments against removing the children “fell on deaf ears”, SAN claimed.
Roy Walker, acting chair of SAN, which represents secure children’s homes, said he had recieved information on similar cases from at least two other homes where 15-year-olds were transferred to young offender institutions or secure training centres.
Advice of YOTs ignored
“Children are being pulled out of units against the advice of unit managers and youth offending teams. This action appears to be arbitrary with little apparent consideration given to the needs and welfare of the young person or their vulnerability,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board said the removal of four children within less than 24 hours was “extremely unlikely” and denied any transfers were due to a shortage of beds.
She confirmed that the YJB undertook monthly reviews of all placements in the secure estate, particularly 15-year-olds.
Vulnerability is key
“When a young person turns 15 years of age, an assessment is made as to which centre could be better placed to meet their particular needs. This assessment is undertaken by the YJB placements and casework team in conjunction with the relevant social worker, youth offending team and any other relevant agency. A key factor that will influence the choice is that of vulnerability,” she said.
The Youth Justice Board is likely to miss its target to cut youth custody numbers by 10% from 2005-8. The latest figures showed there were 2,883 young people in young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and secure training centres in February, up from 2,828 in January. The board had been aiming to reduce the juvenile prison population from 2,676 in March 2005 to 2,408 by last month.