Loss of secure beds will hit offenders from South, warns boss

Vulnerable young offenders from London and the South East could face being placed far away from home following the loss of beds in secure children’s homes, a sector leader has warned.

Roy Walker, chair of the Secure Accommodation Network, which represents 19 homes in England and Wales, made the statement after four homes lost their Youth Justice Board contracts to provide secure beds.

Among those affected was Orchard Lodge, the last SCH in London, leaving Swanwick Lodge in Southampton as the only home providing secure beds in London or the South East.

Job losses

Walker, manager of Sutton Place Safe Centre in Hull, one of the other homes affected, said the closure of secure beds would lead to the loss of jobs, including his own. “The local authority [Hull City Council] is negotiating with staff and trade unions over alternative employment,” he confirmed.

Orchard Lodge and the other affected homes – Kyloe House in Northumberland and the Atkinson Unit in Exeter – are understood to be reviewing their positions.

Their contracts end in July 2009 though all four homes will receive YJB funding until March 2010 as a transitional arrangement.

Reliance on councils

Walker, who is stepping down as chair of SAN next month, called for the remaining homes to be protected. “While we recognise that the Youth Justice Board has had to make difficult decisions, the withdrawal of contracts will mean homes have to rely on councils commissioning welfare beds, and we know this has been falling for some time,” he said.

Hull Council said it was “disappointed” with the decision and said it wanted to keep open Sutton Plce, which it described as “outstanding”. The council confirmed it was meeting the Youth Justice Board about funding for transition arrangements.

Nigel Richardson, assistant chief executive of Children and Young People’s Services added:“We are talking to the unions and at the moment it is too early to speculate about jobs in the future.”   

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