Support the #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Former children’s commissioner raises concerns over children in secure settings

Former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield has raised alarm bells about the treatment of children and young people in secure settings.

Ms Longfield, who stepped down from her role this month, has written to Vicky Ford MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Lucy Frazer QC MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Justice and Nadine Dorries MP, Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health regarding concerns about children in living in secure accommodation, particularly those in inpatient mental health wards and youth custody.

The government has been asked what their plans are for ensuring vulnerable children in secure settings have access to education in person, family visiting, and time outside.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I have raised serious concerns about the care of children living in secure accommodation, particularly those in inpatient mental health wards and youth custody,” said Ms Longfield. “In the first lockdown, many of these children were forced to go months without seeing their families or loved ones or receiving face to face education. In youth custody children were in some cases only spending an hour or two a day out of their cells. I was deeply shocked by this situation and raised immediate concerns with the government, Youth Custody Service and the NHS.”

Significant improvements have thus ensued in the national approach throughout subsequent lockdowns across different secure settings:
NHS England has confirmed that all children in inpatient care should still receive family visits.

The Department for Education guidance is clear that hospital schools should continue to provide face to face education.

The Youth Custody Service has stated that all children are entitled to receive family visits (albeit with a preference for virtual visits), and to receive face to face education.

However, Ms Longfield remains concerned about what is happening in practice:

Mental health inpatient wards have reported struggles to ensure that their education providers continue to provide on-ward, in-person provision, due to concerns about infection risk. The Youth Custody Service reports significant barriers to providing education, and this has a knock-on effect on children’s time out of cell. One barrier was that children in custody were not included on the ‘vulnerable’ list of children which sets out clearly which children have a right to face to face education during the pandemic, yet there was no mention of them in DfE guidance, unlike children attending hospital schools.

The Department for Education has a responsibility towards all children, including those in custody, and must ensure that in the event of any further lockdowns, they are as able as other children to access adequate levels of education, warns Ms Longfield.

Children in custody are firstly being offered video calls, which is not an adequate substitution for in person visits for those children who prefer face to face contact. The actual number of in-person visits available is limited.

“It is unacceptable if a child is unable to see their parent because there is insufficient cover for absent or unwell staff,” added Ms Longfield.

Children are increasingly spending time alone in their cells, particularly at the weekend, with the average time out of cell on weekends as low as 2 hours 30 minutes.

“These children are already some of the most vulnerable in the country. Ensuring that they can maintain their relationships with their families, and access education and rehabilitation support, is urgently required. I look forward to an update on your plans for ensuring vulnerable children in secure settings have access to education in person, family visiting, and time outside (and time out of cell for those in custody), as well as how any practical barriers around staffing will be addressed as national restrictions are relaxed,” concluded Ms Longfield.

Meanwhile, the new children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza has pledged “a lot of listening, and then action”.

The former headteacher said: “We know the challenges – the human cost of the pandemic; the bereavement; rising rates of domestic abuse; vulnerable children; estrangement; children in care or specialist units; children with SEND; a mental health epidemic; social inequality; regional inequality; rising unemployment; economic restructuring. recession; the conflicts between more austerity and a reduction in public services, and more debt which could be passed on to our children; access to further education; access to opportunity. The list is long, and in every particular, children’s futures are on the line.”

In particular, Dame de Souza said she wants to hear previously unheard voices, from minority or vulnerable groups of course, as well as those whose identity may fall between definitions which might confer a particular need or disadvantage.

“During my tenure, I want my work to improve the chances of every single child, whatever their early standing in life, wherever they are, from the inner city to the most remote corner of every county in England,” Dame de Souza concluded.

Children in custody in lockdown

Working Together For Children

Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work, psychological, psychiatric, therapeutic and family support services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

New Deprivation of Liberty court launch for children


A National Deprivation of Liberty Court dealing specifically with applications relating to deprive children of their liberty has been announced by Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division.

The court will deal with applications seeking authorisation to deprive children of their liberty and will be based at the Royal Courts of Justice under the [...]

Read Full Story

Independent review into CSE in Oldham finds child protection procedures were not followed


Some children have been failed by the agencies that were meant to protect them because child protection procedures had not been properly followed, an independent assurance review into historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oldham has found.

Evidence of poor practice was attributed to a structural flaw the review team found in the multi-agency system [...]

Read Full Story

Sixty Second Interview with Chloe Bach


Find out more about our Business Administrator Chloe Bach who has been with WillisPalmer since 2009.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee (oat milk latte)

What 3 things would you put in Room 101?

Migraines, slugs and war

What is your favourite place in the world?

Wherever my family is (but I do love New York)

If you were on death row what [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
WP Quality Assured

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram