Children in Secure Accommodation

By Teresa O’Neill.

Jessica Kingsley Publishers


ISBN 1 85302 933 5

This book offers several new perspectives on secure
accommodation for adolescents. It employs an interpretative
paradigm characterised by “a commitment to the representation and
interpretation of the multiple realities described by research
participants”. In this, special attention is given to girls,
reviewing their situations from a feminist position before, during
and after containment. There are also continual reminders of
ubiquitous children’s rights issues. All of these help illuminate
the regimes, treatment plans and users’ views.

Six units were studied and 32 of the 50 residents agreed to
participate. Background information was successfully collected on
18 girls and 11 boys.

Many of the findings are familiar although it is good to see
them confirmed using a different methodology. For instance, the
high incidence of adverse factors in children’s backgrounds echoes
much other research over the past 25 years. But the comparison of
perspectives among the judiciary, social workers, managers, staff
and residents, and the exploration of how these determine routes to
security is novel.

Outcomes were better for boys than girls and for offenders than
other groups. But in over two-thirds of cases, secure accommodation
was perceived to confer no obvious benefits and the long-term
outlook for all the children was poor.

Four action areas are highlighted. They are the incoherent
admission process, especially for welfare cases; the difficulties
of providing a “multi-professional” approach; the failure to meet
the needs of particular groups of children, such as girls; and the
benefits of rigorous evaluation. Given the fact that so many of the
children are casualties of legislative and professional systems,
more imaginative approaches should be possible.

Professor Roger Bullock is director, Dartington Social
Research Unit.

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