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New report recommends improvements to system of secure accommodation for children from Wales

18 September 2019
Social Care Wales

Several changes are needed to improve the system of secure accommodation for children and young people from Wales according to a new report published today.

Recommendations include developing a national strategy on how to best provide the complex care needed by young people who are among the most vulnerable and stigmatised children in Wales.

The report publishes findings and recommendations from a landmark study which heard directly from young people about their experiences in secure accommodation. We commissioned the study, which was carried out by the Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) at Cardiff University.

The report – The experiences and outcomes of children and young people from Wales receiving Secure Accommodation Orders – is now being submitted to the Welsh Government’s Improving Outcomes for Children Ministerial Advisory Group.

Among the findings from the study were:

  • 38 per cent had positive experiences after leaving secure accommodation. Of the others, 38 per cent had negative experiences and 25 per cent were mixed
  • more than 50 per cent of the young people were placed in secure accommodation outside Wales
  • less than 25 per cent were placed in accommodation that was solely for young people needing to be kept safe for welfare reasons
  • two were placed in unregistered accommodation
  • some young people felt they were being ‘contained’ rather than helped
  • some felt the type of care they received did not always feel appropriate.

The aim of the study was to get a full and true picture of the experiences of children and young people from Wales placed in secure accommodation between April 2016 and March 2018. The study was carried out following concerns raised with us about how suitable some of this accommodation was for young people and the impact it might have on them.

The study focused only on those 43 young people who the courts decided should be accommodated securely to keep them safe, rather than those who had committed criminal offences. This group accounts for less than one per cent of all children and young people in care in Wales who are looked after. These are young people who would have experienced neglect, abuse, bereavement or relationship problems, and were usually from families who had been supported by health, education and social services.

Several recommendations are made, including:

  • developing a national strategy to provide the right care for these young people with complex needs
  • further training for foster carers and residential child care workers to make sure they can meet the specific needs of each young person
  • better mental health support when the young people need it
  • better collaboration between agencies to achieve better outcomes with vulnerable young people
  • making sure the views of young people are included in planning what needs to be done
  • continued access to education, health services and therapy after young people leave secure accommodation
  • improving the look and feel of secure accommodation
  • placing young people close to home, if appropriate.

Sue Evans, our Chief Executive, said: “While a third of the young people that we have information on are achieving positive outcomes, the rest are not doing so well.

“This report does not make for good reading, particularly the experiences of these young people in their own words. Sadly, the findings are not altogether surprising, given we are talking about the most vulnerable young people in Wales who account for one per cent of all those in care.

“But that’s why it was so important for us to commission this study. It’s the first time such a study has been done and we were keen to hear from the young people themselves to get concrete evidence about the situations they face. Only by knowing the issues can we consider how to improve things for them.

“It’s really important we all do something to give these young people improved support and a better journey into adulthood. The findings are not down to one agency getting it wrong. Rather they highlight the need to make changes to the whole system. And that’s why we’re presenting it to the Ministerial Advisory Group so it can discuss the findings and agree what should be done to give these highly-vulnerable children and young people the positive experiences and outcomes they deserve.

“At Social Care Wales, we’re prepared to help in any way we can to bring about the improvements that are needed.”

Read the full and summary reports - The experiences and outcomes of children and young people from Wales receiving Secure Accommodation Orders.