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Friday, 15 September 2017

Judge highlights serious nationwide shortage of secure placements for troubled youngsters

Written by Jan Colley

A judge has spoken out about the serious nationwide shortage of secure accommodation for troubled children.

Judge Rowe echoed the "frustration" of other senior judges about the situation when she said on Friday that a copy of her findings in the case of a 15-year-old, who can be identified only as M, should go to the Secretary of State for Education.

She said that M was "yet another young person" who had fallen into a "gap" in the system.

Since June, M has been the subject of a care order aimed at identifying how his welfare interests might best be met.

The London Borough of Haringey took action after a period in which he became increasingly involved in criminal activities, was increasingly beyond the control of his family and during which he absconded from various family placements.

In August, M received a community sentence which required him to live at his grandmother's home, subject to a curfew enforced by an electronic tag.

Haringey, which considered that placement wholly, unsuitable for him, had already begun its search for a secure placement.

But, before a court hearing on September 1 to consider orders to protect M, he absconded and has not been located since.

The judge, sitting at London's High Court, said that, had a secure placement been available in August, M would not have been free to abscond, he would not have been in breach of his community sentence and "most importantly he would have been safe".

As he was at large, he could not be assessed and it was highly likely that he was continuing to put himself at risk.

She added that the local authority simply could not have done any more to find a suitable placement.

M's referral had gone out to over 75 residential providers throughout England, Scotland and Wales and it was apparent that there was a nationwide shortage of beds, with a waiting list of 23 children.

An "invaluable" place did finally become available for M but - as he has still not been found - it could not be held for him.

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