Children held in secure accommodation are being placed too far from home, hampering plans for their resettlement, a report by Ofsted has found.
Published today, Admission and Discharge from Secure Accommodation reports that some children are being placed hundreds of miles from home, making it difficult for social workers, families and youth offending teams (YOTs) to visit them and help plan their transition back into the community.
The report cites the case of one boy who was placed more than 200 miles from home. His parents were only able to visit once during his four-month sentence. Some children, and their parents, did not even know where they were being taken when sentenced in the courts or remanded in custody.
Social workers and YOTs often failed to plan effectively for children’s release and did not engage them in the process, inspectors found. Resettlement services were also revealed as inconsistent across institutions.
Ofsted made several recommendations, including that the YJB consult social workers and YOTs about placements for children, and that councils ensure those entitled to support under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 receive it while held in custody, and on release.
Young people’s chances of avoiding re-offending are damaged if they lose contact with their families and the professionals working with them. This leads to the loss of the education and training opportunities they will need on discharge, said John Goldup, Ofsted’s director of social care, responding to the findings. Chris Callender, assistant director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, also took this view. “Many of our clients are in custody because they did not have the right support and guidance in the community,” he said. “If they go back to the same conditions then we are all wasting our time and money. Children must absolutely be given the right support for their sake and for the sake of all of us. The law and our society require this is the very minimum.”
YJB chief executive John Drew said that meeting the needs of the children was the overriding priority for the agency, although proximity to home was an important factor. He added that every youth custody centre in England and Wales now provided specialist therapeutic and remedial help, “offering children and young people the best opportunities for training and education, resettlement and rehabilitation”.