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Children's Commissioner concerns raised in 'Who are they, where are they?' report

A new report by the Children's Commissioner reveals that increasing numbers of children are being “locked up” in unsuitable housing because of a lack of secure and safe care accommodation.

Posted on 27 November 2020

The report, “Who are they, where are they?” reveals evidence of a growing number of children who are locked up but who do not appear in any official statistics and who are not living in places designed to hold children securely. Although these children are incredibly vulnerable and can be at risk of being sexually or criminally exploited or harming themselves, often there is no space in a secure children’s home for them to be kept safe.
 
In some cases, councils are being forced to come up with “makeshift arrangements” to house vulnerable youngsters, such as flats, hostels and caravans.
 
The report by Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, says judges are being asked to make decisions in potentially hundreds of cases to deprive children of their liberty to keep them safe in unregistered placements as beds cannot be found for them in secure regulated accommodation.
 
Ms Longfield has called on ministers to consider whether new legislation is required to protect these youngsters, and for an urgent increase in the number of specialist centres to care for them.
 
Recently Ms Longfield instructed Leigh Day solicitors to handle an intervention on her behalf in the case of a child who had been placed in unregistered and non-secure accommodation because of a lack of suitable registered accommodation across England and Wales.
 
If the child had been placed in a registered children’s home, there would have been legal safeguarding measures in place including regular visits and reviews of the care provided and restrictions in place.
 
Ms Longfield says the case is typical of hundreds of others across the country in which children are being deprived of their liberty without legal authority and accommodated in places which put their safety at risk.
 
In the case, heard at the Supreme Court last month, Ms Longfield said children should only be deprived of their liberty with legal authority, and there needs to be reform so that children placed in unregulated placements have the same protection as children placed in secure children’s homes.
 
Leigh Day solicitor Anna Moore was instructed by the Children’s Commissioner.

She said:
 
“Currently children who are placed in Secure Children’s Homes are subject to certain protections prescribed by law (for example the placements have to be registered and there are regular inspections and checks). However, there is a shortage of such homes and as such some children are being placed in unregulated placements, some of which are extremely unsuitable.
 
“Placing children in accommodation that is not a secure children’s home currently falls out of the statutory regime and so they do not have the same safeguards that other children do. This means children are being deprived of their liberty without authorisation and without proper checks and safeguards in place.”

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Anna Moore
Court of Protection Inquests

Anna Moore

Anna Moore is an associate solicitor in the human rights department.