Young people are being ‘failed’ by a lack of places in secure children’s homes, research published today has revealed.
Analysis of Department for Education data found two out of every five young people referred to secure children’s homes for welfare reasons were not offered a place.
They were instead placed in ‘alternative accommodation’, including less secure residential children’s homes, foster care and unregulated placements.
Secure homes are designed to support young people most at risk of causing harm to themselves or others.
The study, conducted by CASCADE Cardiff University for What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC), concluded the system was ‘unable to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable children in our society’ and that ‘placement process and supply of placements is inadequate’.
The current system is ‘particularly failing older boys with challenging behaviours’ and young people linked to previous offending, gang association and sexually harming behaviours were more likely to be refused a secure place.
It also found nearly two thirds of young people placed in secure care homes were victims of sexual exploitation and that on average, they experienced three new placements in the year after their referral.
The report concluded that the Government’s forthcoming Care Review ‘must explore the support provided to these children’ when they leave placements.
It also recommended councils should report to Ofsted when children who apply for a secured care home cannot be placed and suggested linking local authority data with justice, health and education databases for future monitoring and study.
WWCSC chief executive Michael Sanders said: ‘I’m saddened to see such poor outcomes for young people referred to secure children’s homes - whether they find a place or not - and will work with colleagues across the sector to see how we can help.’