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, ethnicity, and length of stay.
The data in this release is used to support monitoring and assessment of capacity within the system. The data is reported for England and Wales and is collected directly from secure children's homes.
Figures relate to a snapshot of the position on 31 March each year, except for 2020 when the reference date was changed to 29 February to reflect the position in secure children's homes before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the national lockdown.
Headline facts and figures - 2023
Figures relate to 31 March 2023, for England and Wales, comparisons are to 31 March 2022 unless otherwise stated.
Between 2015 and 2022, the number of places in secure children's homes that were approved for use remained fairly stable around 250, however this has fallen by 19 places this year to 230.
Children accommodated in secure children's homes decreased by 16% (26 fewer children) to 139. Since 2010, there has been an overall gradual decline in children accommodated in secure children's homes.
The occupancy rate on 31 March has decreased to 60% - down from 66%.
56 children were placed by the Youth Custody Service (YCS), down from 62. Since 2010, there has been a longer-term trend of fewer children being placed in secure children's homes by the YCS.
Download all data available in this release as a compressed ZIP file
Secure children's homes
Secure children's homes provide a safe place where very vulnerable children and young people can receive the care, support and education they need. Beds within secure children's homes are either contracted to the Youth Custody Service (YCS), or are available to local authorities (LAs) for welfare or criminal justice placements, so children can be placed within these children's homes either by LAs or the YCS. The YCS place vulnerable children when they are remanded to custody by the courts or are serving a custodial sentence. Local authorities place children when no other type of placement can keep them safe as they are a significant risk to themselves or others.
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 YCS took over responsibility for individual placements of children and young people into youth custody and day-to-day management of youth custody. Some places within secure children's homes are contracted out for use to the MoJ and children are placed in them by the YCS.
There are currently 14 secure children’s homes in England and Wales, carrying 230approved places which is a decrease of 19 places on last year; the five years before this the number of places remained consistently around 250. This decrease is largely due to temporary closures in some homes, resulting in fewer approved places for local authorities to use to place children on a criminal justice basis or for welfare reasons.
Not all approved places are always available for use, for example homes may temporarily close to make improvements, a bed may be out of use due to damage or refurbishment or if staffing ratios mean a reduced number of places can be filled. The availability of approved places is the same as last year, at 88%. The availability rate remained consistently above 90% between 2010 and 2016 but has been below in each year since then.
The number of approved places contracted to the MoJ steadily declined from 191 places in 2010 to 106 in 2019. Since then places contracted to the the MoJ have remained at a similar level - there were 105 this year - the same as in 2022.
Similarly the number of children placed by the YCS in secure homes decreased from 146 in 2011 and 2012 down to 62 in 2022. This year YCS placements have fallen again to 56.
Figures published by the His Majesty's Prison Service show 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. This is reflected in the secure children’s homes data for MoJ contracted places and YCS placements.
Within the 14 secure children’s homes, there were 139 children accommodated, down 16%. The occupancy rate was 60% - down from 66% last year - the only time since 2010 that the occupancy was lower was during the covid-19 pandemic.
However, a lower occupancy rate does not necessarily mean that there are available spaces within secure children's homes - availability of a suitable place may depend upon whether or not it is contracted to the YCS. In addition, placements are complex and each home will assess the resources required to support the individual needs of the children they accommodate.
These are based on the number of children accommodated in relation to the number of places for which the home has approval to operate with
Since 2016, the proportion of children accommodated for welfare or justice placements have been broadly even - prior to that a higher proportion of the children accommodated were there for justice reasons. In 2023, 53% of children within secure children's homes were placed by the LA for welfare reasons, up from 50% in 2022 but down from 56% in 2021.
In 2023, children detained or sentenced and placed by the YCS accounted for 40% of children (down from 38%).
Children and young people placed within secure children's homes may be placed as:
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.
Note that due to the relatively small size of the cohort, users should be cautious interpreting year on year changes.
There are more males than females accommodated in secure children’s homes. The decrease in overall numbers of children placed in secure children's homes means that whilst the number of males accommodated has fallen by 14 children (to 100), as a proportion of all children accommodated males have increased from 69% to 72%. The number of female children accommodated also fell by 12 children to 39.
Children aged 15 years or over make up around 70% of the children accommodated. The numbers in each age group are small and do fluctuate over time - children accommodated by age in 2023:
10 were aged 13 years (7%)
22 were aged 14 years old (16%)
44 were aged 15 years old (32%)
39 were aged 16 years old (28%)
14 were aged 17 years old (10%)
the remaining 7% were either aged under 13, or 18 years and over.
Information on the ethnicity of children accommodated in secure homes was reported for the first time in 2021. The numbers and proportions of children accommodated by ethnicity are in the table.