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5.1.15 Secure Accommodation Policy for Children in Care - Local guidance


Secure Accommodation is the most restrictive option of accommodation for children and young people to be placed in and it is important therefore that careful consideration is given to the relevant criteria and circumstances of the child. This chapter describes the process required, together with some of the issues, in order to safeguard a child in this way where Significant Harm is of concern.

See also: GOV.UK Secure children’s homes: how to place a child aged under 13


Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure

This chapter was reviewed in April 2016.


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of Policy
  3. Legal Context
  4. Applications under Section 25 Children Act 1989 (Applications are heard in the Family Proceedings Court)
  5. 72 Hour Rule (Restricted Liberty) (The Grounds for Applying this Rule Must Fall Within Section 25 Children Act 1989)
  6. Secretary of State (Age of Child) Approval

    Appendix 1: Social Work Review Report Template (see Documents Library)

1. Introduction

Secure Accommodation is the most restrictive option of accommodation for children and young people to be placed in.

Consequently it is essential any decision taken to place a child or young person in such accommodation should be taken carefully and with all available information considered, evaluated and risk assessed. This decision will then be presented to the Court.

2. Purpose of Policy

The purpose of this policy is to describe the processes by which a young person can be kept in secure accommodation.

This policy outlines the process in detail as a means of ensuring the needs of the child or young person are given paramount consideration when decisions are taken to restrict their liberty.

See also Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure and Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure.

3. Legal Context

There are a number of routes whereby secure accommodation may occur. They are:

  • Applications under Section 25 of the Children Act 1989:
    • If the child is accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989 any person with Parental Responsibility can remove the child from secure accommodation at any time;
    • If the child is 16 and accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989, the child/young person can elect to leave secure accommodation upon reaching their 16th birthday.
  • Court Ordered Secure Remand, Section 23 Children and Young Persons Act 1969;
  • Detention and Training Orders (Section 100 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000) Court must refer to Section 79 of same act when considering Detention and Training orders as an option;
  • Sentenced under Sections 90-91 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (Grave Offences and Murder);
  • Section 38 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1989.

4. Applications under Section 25 Children Act 1989 (Applications are heard in the Family Proceedings Court)

Decision Making Procedure

Section 25 states:

‘A child who is being looked after by a Local Authority may not be placed and if placed, may not be kept, in accommodation provided for the purpose of restricting liberty unless it appears that:

  1. They have a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation and If they abscond they are likely to suffer Significant Harm; or
  2. That if they are kept in any other description of accommodation they are likely to injure themselves or other persons.

Secure accommodation may never be sought for the following reasons:

  • No other placement is available;
  • Punishment;
  • To prevent a child absconding;
  • To gain compliance;
  • As an alternative to a health resource where a young person is under any provision of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Consultation with a Senior Manager, Operations Director and the Legal department is required to decide if the criteria under Section 25 Children Act 1989 are met. If agreed these criteria apply, a Legal Planning Meeting should be convened in the first instance as part of the procedure.

The Legal Planning Meeting should include:

  • Senior Manager (chair) e.g. Strategic Manager;
  • Legal Representative;
  • Social Worker;
  • Social Worker’s Line Manager;
  • Child's Carer (If appropriate);
  • IRO (This is to ensure independent scrutiny and a view; not to contribute to planning).

This meeting should discuss:

  • The child’s history and current situation, in order to establish if the criteria for making a secure order are met;
  • How placing the child or young person in secure accommodation will improve the outcomes for the child or young person;
  • What the purpose of applying for a Secure Accommodation Order is in relation to the overall Care Plan for the child;
  • Consideration as to whether Somerset County Council will make an application to the Court for a Care Order or application under Inherent Jurisdiction for Wardship;
  • What the child’s exit plan from secure accommodation would be should the Court make the order.

If this meeting decides that the criteria is met then the chair will recommend to the Operations Director who will liaise with the Director of Children’s Services.

The Director of Children’s Services will ultimately make the decision as to whether the application can be made based on the available information and legal advice.

If agreed, the social worker, with guidance from Legal Services, will be requested to write a statement for Court outlining the history of the child and the reasons why a secure accommodation order is necessary. A minimum of 48 hours must be given to the Legal Service to make arrangements with the court for the application to be heard. It is recognised that the court will be responsible for timetabling which may affect this timescale.

The longer the notice that can be given to the Legal Service the better prepared the Local Authority’s case will be and the greater the likelihood that the Court time can be made available.

If the order is granted, the maximum period the Court may authorise is 3 months. The maximum order thereafter is 6 months.

The child must be legally represented when the application is made at Court; the Legal Service will ensure this is in place through liaison with the Court.

The Court will decide to appoint a Children’s Guardian unless it does not consider this is necessary to protect the child’s welfare.


The Local Authority will be responsible for transporting the child/young person to the receiving secure unit and ensuring all necessary documentation accompanies the child. This will need to be planned and may need additional support from another agency such as police.

The receiving unit will require a copy of the Court Order authorising secure accommodation and all relevant CLA documentation as would accompany a child to any other care provision.

Where a child is Section 20 Accommodated, the receiving Unit will request evidence that this permission for placement has been sought from the child’s parent(s) and/or persons holding Parental Responsibility.

The social worker must inform the Safeguarding Unit so that an IRO can be appointed and a CLA Review date agreed. (See also Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure).

Within 5 days of the placement a Care Planning Meeting must be held in the Secure Unit to establish the Care Plan for the child/young person.

The Social Worker must arrange this meeting in consultation with the Secure Unit in order to ensure the required personnel are available or at the least views are sought and made available. This would include:

  • Child;
  • Parent or person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Unit Key worker;
  • Secure Unit Manager;
  • Education Representative;
  • Child’s Guardian;
  • Representative from Secure Unit’s Therapeutic Support (where appropriate);
  • YOT worker if appropriate.

The Operations Director or a Strategic Manager will chair the Care Planning meeting which, will address the following issues:

  • All aspects within the ‘Placement Planning’ document such as discussions regarding the expectations and practicalities for the secure unit to look after the child/young person effectively;
  • The detail and nature of any assessment undertaken within the unit, and timescale for completion and any additional work that can be carried out with the child/young person including the identity of the worker;
  • If the child/young person was previously accommodated by the local authority in a non-secure setting this meeting will update the Care Plan in light of the secure placement;
  • The meeting will also look at what services should be offered from Somerset County Council as part of transition;
  • The exit plan for the child.


An independent panel must be set up to review whether the criteria remains met within one month. This is in addition to the Child in Care Planning Process, which must also occur in this setting such as Care Planning Meetings, Statutory Reviews and ensuring the child is visited as a minimum within the statutory visiting frequency guidelines.

The social worker must inform the Safeguarding Unit Strategic Manager within one day of the order being granted so that arrangements for the Panel are agreed.

The Panel must consist of three independent persons. This will include, the Strategic Manager for Safeguarding who will chair all secure reviews or in exceptional circumstances will delegate to another manager with appropriate experience and independence, a person from an outside agency and the Elected Member for Children and Families. Where an elected Member with Children’s Portfolio is not available then this role maybe delegated to another suitable and experienced Member. The Safeguarding Unit will be responsible for agreeing the Panel membership.

The first review of the Secure Order must take place within one month of placement commencing. The Social Worker must agree the date of the Review with the Safeguarding Strategic Manager and all other invitees.

The Safeguarding Unit will then arrange the meeting and send invites.

A report must be provided by the social worker for the review clearly outlining why the criteria for the order is still met (See Appendix 1: Social Work Review Report Template (see Documents Library)).

The Secure Accommodation Order is a permissive order. Therefore if the child is considered, at any point, within the period defined by the order, to no longer meet the eligibility criteria, the child must be released immediately and the Strategic Manager for Safeguarding notified.

In reaching the decision as to whether the criteria for a secure order remain met the Chair of the panel must have regard to the views and wishes of:

  • The child;
  • Their parent;
  • Any other person with Parental Responsibility;
  • The child’s Independent Advocate;
  • Views of the Secure Unit in which the child is placed;
  • The Child’s Guardian;
  • Any other person who has had care of the child;
  • Legal advice where appropriate;
  • YOT worker where appropriate.

If the Review Panel conclude that the criteria for keeping a child in secure still apply, the Local Authority must then consider requesting the court to make a further Secure Accommodation Order.

The Strategic Manager for Safeguarding must notify the DCS of this decision in writing with the panel conclusions within two days.

An extension to a Secure Accommodation Order can only be made by agreement from the DCS

Should the Review Panel come to the conclusion that the criteria for keeping a child in Secure Accommodation no longer exists the expectation is that the Local Authority would respond positively to this outcome, or where it does not provide an explanation of the reasons why (LAC (92) 13).

This decision will be escalated to the DCS by the Safeguarding Strategic Manager on the day of the review for action.

The child cannot be kept in secure accommodation because the Local Authority is unable to find an alternative placement, and this should not be a factor in reaching a decision as to whether the criteria still apply.

Other Arrangements

For as long as the child remains subject to Secure Order under S25 the Strategic Manager responsible for the child and the Strategic Manager for Safeguarding will provide a report at the end of every month to the DCS to ensure that they are regularly updated.

5. 72 Hour Rule (Restricted Liberty) (The Grounds for Applying this Rule Must Fall Within Section 25 Children Act 1989)

A child can be placed in secure accommodation for 72 hours in any twenty eight day period without the court’s authority should it be considered necessary to act immediately to protect the child/young person from risk of Significant Harm.

The 72-hour rule should only be used where there is a clear view that an Order will be sought and cannot be used as a holding position.

Should an assessment of risk indicate to the social worker that an application of the 72-hour rule should be considered relevant to the need for protection only the Director of Children’s Services can agree and in addition Legal Services must be consulted immediately in order to confirm that the criteria apply

Written confirmation must be sought from the Director of Children’s Services for a secure unit to agree to the accommodating of a child under this rule

If a child is placed in secure accommodation under the 72-hour rule, a Legal Planning Meeting must be convened within one day and the procedure must then follow the above. Any delay in holding this meeting within one day can only be agreed by the Operations Director and only to allow representation of parents and child’s views to be sought. Either way the meeting must be held within two days.

The 72-hour rule can only extend for 72 hours consecutively or in aggregate in any period of 28 consecutive days

Regulation 11(3) also allows a limited extension of the 72 hours where it expires late Saturday, a Sunday, or a public holiday.

6. Secretary of State (Age of Child) Approval

Secretary of State (DfE) approval will be required before any child/young person under 13 can be admitted to Secure Accommodation either through a Court Order or under the 72-hour rule and include consultation with Ofsted.

DfE approval will only be required on the initial application, or if there has been a break in placement. The DfE will require a completed copy of the ‘Assessment for Consideration of Secure Accommodation Form’, and if the child is already Looked After, a copy of their current Care Plan will be required.

DfE will consult with Ofsted prior to granting their approval for a secure application to be made. DfE will then notify the Local Authority with their decision.

Appendix 1: Social Work Review Report Template

Appendix 1: Social Work Review Report Template (see Documents Library).