William Eichler 16 May 2019

‘Locked up’ children cost £300m to care for, commissioner says

An estimated 1,500 children in England are locked up by the state for their own or others’ safety at a cost of a £300m a year, new report reveals.

A new study by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, shows that there were 1,465 children in England securely detained in 2018.

An estimated 873 of these children were held in youth justice settings, 505 were in mental health wards and 87 were in secure children’s homes for their own welfare.

This costs the public purse around £300m a year, Ms Longfield calculated – although this excludes what is spent on ‘invisible’ children whose settings the state does not have information about.

Medium Secure Mental Health Settings are the most expensive form of provision, at £1,611 a day or £588,015 a year.

Secure Children’s Homes have an estimated cost per child of £210,000 per year, with Secure Training Centres at £160,000 a year and Young Offender Institutions at £76,000.

The commissioner’s research also found 211 children whose Deprivation of Liberty has been authorised by a court but whose whereabouts in the system is invisible because they do not fit into any of the categories for which there is published data.

‘Locking children up is an extreme form of intervention,’ said Ms Longfield.

‘We are spending millions of pounds on these packages of care and yet there is far too little oversight of why they are there, their journeys into this system and the safeguards in place to protect them once they are there.’

Responding to the report, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Any decision to deprive a child of their liberty is taken extremely seriously, and only made in cases where there is no other option available to protect that child or those around them.

‘These children will have extremely complex, significant needs, and councils work hard with their partners including in health and youth justice, to make sure these placements provide the support children need to overcome those issues in order to try and help them go on to live safe, independent lives.’

Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, deputy CEO of the children’s charity Coram, said the report revealed an ‘alarming safeguarding failure’.

‘It is unacceptable that over 200 children have been essentially “lost in the system” and placed in settings about which we have no information,’ she said.

‘We have no idea how long these children have spent in these institutions and no idea as to whether they are receiving interventions that best respond to their needs.’

Ms Longfield urged local authorities to provide her office, Ofsted and the CQC with data on the number of children deprived of liberty in their area at any one time, the legal basis for that deprivation of liberty, and where those children are living.

Ms Jeyarajah-Dent welcomed this call from the commissioner and said that councils would need to take ‘urgent steps to gain a clearer picture of each child’s history within the system.’

For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Road Worker

City of Bradford MDC
Band 6 £20,043 - £22,129 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is looking for two Road Workers to join the Highway Delivery Unit. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Senior Practitioner - Family Support and Protection

Essex County Council
£41552 - £50290 per annum + + Free Parking & Local Gov Package
Closing Date
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Senior Planning Enforcement Officer

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning
Grade 5, £30,737 - £35,747 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen within the Greater Cambridge Planning Enforcement Team Cambourne/Cambridge/Hybrid
Recuriter: Greater Cambridge Shared Planning

Assistant Engineer / Engineer

City of Bradford MDC
£24,920 - £34,373 pa
This is an opportunity to join the highway maintenance team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Technician - Maintenance Programmes (3 Posts)

Derbyshire County Council
£23,657 - £25,568 per annum - Plus market leading package (see below)
This is an exciting time to join our in-house Highways Service Hybrid
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.