Reporting year 2020

Children accommodated in secure children's homes

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This release contains statistics on children accommodated in secure children's homes, including:

  • numbers of approved and available places
  • availability and occupancy rates
  • children accommodated by gender, age and length of stay.

Data is reported for England and Wales. Information is taken from the DfE SA1 data return collected from secure children's homes. 

Figures for 2020 relate to the reference date of 29 February to reflect the position in secure children's homes before they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown. For all other years, figures relate to the position at 31 March.

Headline facts and figures - 2020

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Places approved and children accommodated

The number of approved places has remained broadly stable for the last five years. In 2020 there were 252 places approved by the Secretary of State - 7 places fewer than last year. 

The number of children accommodated has risen to 184, up 7% on last year. This follows a drop of 16% in the previous year - the number of children accommodated had been 204 in 2018 and fell to 172 in 2019.

There are 14 secure children's homes in England and Wales, one less that last year. However, the number of homes had been stable at 15 for the previous five years. 

Approved places contracted to the MoJ are similar to last year at 107 places. 80 children were accommodated in these places by the Youth Custody Service (YCS).  

Figures published by the Her Majesty's Prison Service show that the overall population of the youth secure estate has declined in the last decade, influenced by a move by courts towards sentencing children being a last resort. Between 2010 and 2019 both the number of places contracted to the MoJ and the number of children placed by the YCS has fallen overall. However, in 2020 the number of places contracted to the MoJ have remained stable (at 107 places, up 1 place on 2019) but the number of children placed by the YCS have increased by 21% (representing 14 children).

Secure children's homes

These are children's homes which provide a locked environment and restrict a child or young person's liberty. They provide care and accommodation to children and young people who have been detained, or sentenced by the criminal courts and those who have been remanded to secure local authority accommodation. They also accommodate and care for children and young people who have been placed there on welfare grounds by local authorities and the courts.

Other types of secure accommodation

Note that data on children placed in young offender institutions and secure training centres are not included in this release, but are published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

  • Secure Training Centres (STCs) are available to place those young people who are a little older and perhaps more independent and more motivated to attend school, or have risk factors which would make a placement in a  Young Offender Institution (YOI) inappropriate. There are three purpose built STCs in England offering secure provision to sentenced or remanded young people aged 12 to 17 years.
  • Young Offender Institutions (YOIs)  can accommodate young people from aged 15 to 21 years. However, the YCS is only responsibly for commissioning YOIs which hold young males aged from 15 to 18 years. YOIs tend to be larger than SCH and STCs with lower ratios of staff to young people. Consequently, young people who are more resilient and older may be placed in a YOI. Also, young people who predominantly externalise their risk may be placed within a YOI.

Places contracted to the  Ministry of Justice (MoJ)

From September 2017, the overall responsibility for commissioning of youth custody transferred to the MoJ from the Youth Justice Board. At the same time the Youth Custody Service (YCS) took over responsibility for individual placements of children and young people into youth custody and day-to-day management of youth custody. So some places within secure children's homes are contracted out for use to the MoJ and children are placed in them by the YCS.

Availability and occupancy rates

Availability rates

These are based on the number of places that were in use or available for use at 31 March (29 February in 2020), excluding any approved places that are out of service, for example undergoing development work.

Occupancy rates

These are based on the number of children accommodated in relation to the number of places approved by the Secretary of State.

The availability of approved places has risen to 90%, from 88% last year. The availability rate remained consistently above 90% between 2010 and 2016, but has been slightly lower in the last three years. However, fewer rooms were available in these years due to homes undergoing renovation.

The proportion of available places occupied, the occupancy rate, has risen to 73%. There was a dip in the occupancy rate in 2019 which reflected a drop in the number of placements made by the YCS, but this year the figure is closer to the occupancy rate seen prior to 2019 (80% in 2018).

Type of placement

Children detained or sentenced and placed by the YCS increased to 80 children, from 66 last year, representing 43% of children accommodated (up from 38% in 2019). 

Children placed by the local authority in a criminal justice context increased to 15 (up 6 children), representing 8% of the children accommodated (up from 5% in 2019).

Children placed by the local authority on welfare grounds was 89, down from 97 in 2019, representing 48% of children accommodated (down from 56% in 2019).


Children detained  or sentenced and placed by the YCS include children detained for, or convicted of, a serious offence under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 or the Criminal Justice Act 2003; or subject to a Supervision Order with a residence requirement or a Detention and Training Order under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

Children placed by the local authority in a criminal justice context include  children remanded by a court under section 102 (Remand to youth detention accommodation) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012; or accommodated pursuant to section 38 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Children placed by the local authority on welfare grounds include children who are placed into the homes by their local authority under section 25 of the Children Act 1989 for the protection of themselves and/or others.

Gender and age

More than twice as many males are accommodated in secure children's homes than females. 

The proportion of  children accommodated who are male has risen to 70% (128 children), from 61%, an increase of 23 children. The number of female children accommodated fell by 11 children to 56. 

Information on the gender split by type of placement is not collected but it is likely this  increase in the number of males relates to the increase in children placed by the YCS.

Children accommodated by age in 2020:

  • 29 were aged 14 years old (16%)
  • 66  were aged 15 years old (36%)
  • 43 were aged 16 years old (23%)
  • 29 were aged 17 years old (16%)
  • the remaining 17 children (9%) were either aged 13 years or under, or 18 years and over.

There are increases in the number of 15, 16 and 17 years olds (up by 22% combined) and a decrease in the number of 14 years olds (down 28%) compared to last year. However, the numbers in each age group are small and do fluctuate over time.

Length of stay

Length of stay of children accommodated at 29 February 2020:

  • 40 children had been accommodated for less than 1 month (22%)
  • 65 had been accommodated for 1 month but less than 3 months (35%)
  • 47 had been accommodated for 3 months but less than 6 months (26%)
  • 21 had been accommodated for 6 months but less than 1 year (11%)
  • 11 had been accommodated for a year or more (6%).

Children accommodated for three months or more continued to fall, to 79 children, from 93 in 2019 and 110 in 2018. This represented 43% of children accommodated in 2020, down from 54% in both 2018 and 2019. 2018 was the first time in the period since 2010 that more than half of the children accommodated had been accommodated for 3 months or more.

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