When a child is in a situation where they have a history of running away, likely to suffer significant harm or are likely to hurt themselves or others if they’re kept in typical accommodation, local authorities can apply to the courts for a secure accommodation order.
These orders are put in place to protect a child at risk and decisions are always made as a last resort, based on the best interests of the child.
In this article, you’ll learn what secure accommodation means as well as how long it may last.
What does secure accommodation mean?
Secure accommodation is a placement where children can be sent, in which their liberty is restricted.
Only children or young people, who are aged between 13 and 17 can be placed in secure accommodation if they are in care.
The usual scenarios that could result in being placed into temporary accommodation include if the child:
- Has harmed themselves, or are at risk of harming themselves
- Has harmed someone else, or are at risk of harming someone else
- Has engaged in gang activity or another form of criminal activity
- Is at risk of grooming or child sexual exploitation
- Often goes missing, and will continue to go missing if they aren’t placed in secure accommodation
If any of these situations, or a combination of these situations, have occurred, a child can be put in secure accommodation if there is no other measure that would keep them safe. As part of this placement, they will not be able to leave without supervision and may have access to phones and internet limited.
Local Authorities will have to go through the court process in order to obtain a Secure Accommodation Order for a child they’re concerned about. However, in extreme circumstances, social care can force a child to stay in secure accommodation for 72 hours (3 days) without asking permission from the courts.
How long can a secure accommodation order last?
The typical Secure Accommodation Order will last for three months. However, in situations where social workers believe that a child is still at risk to themselves or others, they can ask the court to extend the order for up to six months.
It’s also possible for children to be let out of their secure facility before the designated time of their court order. If the child is no longer at risk, the courts can agree for them to be released. In all cases, the Local Authority should keep a careful review as to whether the restrictions on the child’s liberty is still required.
Usually, when a child is placed in secure accommodation, they will have regular check-ins with their social worker, guardian and an independent reviewing offer who, together, will decide when it’s time for a child to be released from their accommodation.
Can I still see my child when they are in secure accommodation?
Yes, just because your child is in secure accommodation, it doesn’t mean that you’re denied all access to them. The Local Authority will promote contact between you and your child.
Can my child be placed far away in a secure accommodation unit?
Yes, there is a chance that your child may be placed far away. You don’t always have a choice over the location that your child stays in, it will all depend on where there is availability. If you’d like to speak to our team to discuss a secure accommodation order, book a consultation and a family solicitor will get in touch to speak with you in confidence.