Under UK law, Secure Accommodation Orders are defined as a deprivation of liberty within Article 5 of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights). Secure Accommodation Orders relate to children under 18 years of age and can only be granted by a family court Judge with article 9 rights (usually senior, circuit judges), with local authorities having confirmed to the Judge where the child will be placed and any restrictions on their movements.
In some cases where young persons have committed serious criminal offences, children as young at 10 years of age can be given custodial sentences, although this is rare. Instead, they may be assigned to secure children’s homes.
Other types of secure accommodation for minors also include secure training centres and young offenders’ institutes.
What are the criteria for secure accommodation for minors?
There is strict criteria that they court has to review under s.25 of the Children Act 1989. If that criteria is met, the court has to make the secure accommodation order, there is no discretion in such circumstances. The application must be supported by evidence to show that this type of order is in the best interests of the child/ public safety concerns.
Some of the criteria relates to the wellbeing of the child in question, especially if they have a history of absconding from care situations.
In other situations, the criteria relates to the fact that the child is due to appear before a children’s court and is unlikely to attend without first being placed in secure accommodation.
There are also other factors such as safeguarding children at risk and mental health to be considered with secure accommodation orders only made if there are serious concerns about the child’s safety and welfare or that of others.
What happens after a Secure Accommodation Order has been granted?
If the court sanctions the making of a secure accommodation order, the local authority will have identified a placement for that child.
Social workers involved with the young person and their family will prepare a care plan designed to improve the child’s situation and to help provide the right level of supervision and support for as long as the secure accommodation order is to last.
What happens if you are unhappy with the arrangements?
By law, children and young adults must adhere to the secure accommodation order. However, the hearing only goes as far as to authorise the move and it is up to the local authority’s social care department to arrange the secure unit or care home where the child will be placed.
The child and parents will be contacted with information before this takes place, as well as reasons why the social worker has chosen this course of action.
Should you be unhappy with the arrangements, you must seek legal advice immediately and take the decision to appeal by writing to the courts within three weeks of the order being granted.
A good family lawyer can help you submit your appeal paperwork and guide you through the process to help secure a favourable outcome.