Methodology

Children accommodated in secure children's homes

Published

Introduction

This document contains supporting information for the statistical release ‘Children accommodated in secure children’s homes', including further detail on the quality, reliability and methodology of these statistics overall, and in relation to a range of potential uses. The information is collated from the annual SA1 data return which is reported to the Department for Education (DfE) by all secure children's homes in England and Wales. It covers the position at the end of the reporting year. 

The release contains information for both England and Wales due to a long-standing agreement with the Welsh Government. The combined figures for England and Wales are presented as the main figures as cross-border placements mean that Welsh children may be accommodated in English secure children's homes, and vice versa. Figures for England only are provided in the data but should be interpreted with this caveat.

Types of secure accommodation

Children and young people can be placed in the secure estate with:

  • a justice placement - where children are placed by the youth justice system either when a child is remanded by a court, or placed by the Youth Custody Service (YCS) when they are detained for or convicted of a serious offence
  • a welfare placement - where children are placed by their local authority into the homes under section 25 of the Children Act 1989, for the protection of themselves and/or others

There are three types of secure accommodation in which children and young people can be placed on youth justice grounds. These are:

  • young offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure children's homes.

Children who are sentenced, detained or remanded are placed in secure children's homes by the YCS. Secure children's homes also accommodate young people placed on welfare grounds where children are placed by local authorities following approval by the courts. Both types of placement made in secure children's homes are covered in the statistical release. Data on children placed in young offender institutions and secure training centres are not included in this release but are published separately by 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 placement of children and young people into youth custody and day-to-day management of youth custody.

Secure children's homes and placements

Secure children's homes provide care in a secure setting for the most vulnerable children and young offenders with challenging and complex needs, including sometimes severe behavioural and emotional difficulties. 

There are currently 13 secure children's homes in England; 12 are managed by local authorities and one by a charity (Nugent).  Of these 13 English homes, 6 cater solely for children placed on welfare grounds, 2 contract solely with the MoJ and provide placements for young offenders, and 5 provide both types of placement.

There is one secure children's home in Wales, which is managed by the local authority,

The secure homes website has further information on the homes included in this publication.

Many factors are considered when determining if a child is placed in a secure children's home or another type of secure custodial accommodation. Children aged under 12 who commit serious offences will always be placed in a secure children's home. For older children, the YCS will take account of their vulnerability, based on what is known about their mental health, emotional and cognitive development etc. Local authorities have an occasional but compelling need to commission secure welfare placements.

Whilst there is generally a preference for placing children within travelling distance of their home if it is in their best interests to do so, for this very specialist provision it is sometimes necessary to place further away from home. Some secure homes have developed expertise in addressing specific needs and vulnerabilities and these specialisms will be taken into account in determining the most appropriate placement for an individual child.

Published statistics

The Department currently publishes the following Statistics: secure children's homes - GOV.UK annually.

These UK Statistics Authority first designated these statistics as National Statistics in June 2013, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

  • meet identified user needs
  • are well explained and readily accessible
  • are produced according to sound methods
  • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed. Since reconfirmation, we have continued to align the statistics to the Code of Practice, for example we have:

  • improved the commentary supporting the statistics, through the introduction of this document
  • taken steps to ensure that our published statistics protect confidentiality
  • provided data in machine readable, tidy data format.

Data quality

Data is collected through the SA1 statistical return which provides aggregate data from each home. The collection process is unchanged and has been stable for many years. The data has gone through a series of validation checks and there are no known quality issues with the data. 

Figures reported each year are usually based upon children placed in the homes open at the reference date of 31 March. However, in 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus the Department agreed with secure children's homes to change the reference date for the data collection to 29 February 2020. This date was chosen as a representative date for ‘business as usual’ so the figures were not unduly affected by the national lockdown. The 2021 collection went back to the reference date of 31 March and will include any impacts due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Methodology and data processing

Data collection

The secure homes return their data to DfE via a data collection form which has collected aggregate information on eight areas each year prior to 2021. A new data item on ethnicity was added for the 2021 collection, and the ethnicity groupings were aligned to other departmental publications in 2022. The data items are: 

  1. Number of approved places (Item 1)
  2. Number of places in use or available for use (Item 2)
  3. Number of approved places contracted to the MoJ (Item 3)
  4. Number of children accommodated (Item 4)
  5. Sex of children (Items 5a and 5b)
  6. Age of children (Items 6a-h)
  7. Length of stay (Items 7a-f)
  8. Type of placement (Items 8a-c)
  9. Ethnicity of children (Items 9a-f)

Data validation

A number of validation checks are carried out on the data once it is returned to DfE, for example:

  • the number of places in use or available for use (Item 2) should be less that or equal to the number of approved places (Item 1)
  • the number of approved places contracted to the MoJ (Item 3) should be less than or equal to the number of approved places (Item 1)
  • the number of children accommodated (Item 3) should be less than or equal to the number of approved places (Item 1) and the number of places in use or available for use (Item 2)
  • the total number of males (Item 5a) and females (Item 5b) should be equal to the number of children accommodated (Item 4)
  • the total number of children in each age group (Item 6a-h) should be equal to the number of children accommodated (Item 4)
  • the total number of children by length of stay (Item 7a-f) should be equal to the number of children accommodated (Item 4)
  • the total number of children in each type of placement (Item 8a-c) should be equal to the number of children accommodated (Item 4)
  • the total number of children in each ethnicity group (Item 9a-f) should be equal to the number of children accommodated (Item 4)

We also check the number of places available is less than the number of placed approved. This can be for a number of reasons, for example refurbishment, staff sickness or implementing new processes and procedures.

Once the data has been checked, individual returns are collated into one dataset for analysis.

Data coherence and comparability

Once data has been validated, it is then compared to previous years to make sure there are no unusual changes. 

Figures reported each year are usually based upon children placed in the homes open at the reference date of 31 March. In 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus the Department agreed with secure children's homes to change the reference date for the data collection to 29 February 2020.  This date was chosen as a representative date for ‘business as usual’ so the figures were not unduly affected by the national lockdown. The 2021 collection went back to the reference date of 31 March. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen in changes in the numbers of children accommodated and occupancy rates in the secure homes. Local authorities have reported that on occasion throughout the year, staff availability has impacted on the number of available places in some of their residential settings and the MoJ have reported fewer young people in custody following the initial impact of the pandemic on court proceedings. Therefore, users should exercise caution when making comparisons over time. 

Comparisons to other sources

We check our figures to publications by Ofsted who report on maximum number of places in secure children's homes, and the MoJ who report on children and young people in custody within secure children's homes (see ‘Related information’ section). 

Footnotes to the data

Analysis of tables produced from the underlying data should reference to the following explanatory notes:

Places approved: The number of places for which homes were approved to operate with by the Secretary of State on 31 March (29 February in 2020).

Places available: Number and percentage of places that were in use or available for use at the reference date (excluding any approved places that are out of service, e.g. undergoing development work). This number does not indicate the number of vacant places. Percentages are based upon the number of places available in relation to the number of places approved by the Secretary of State and are displayed to the nearest whole number.

Children accommodated - percentages: Based on the number of children accommodated in relation to the number of places approved by the Secretary of State and are displayed to the nearest whole number.

Places contracted to the MoJ - percentages: Based on the number of places contracted to the MoJ in relation to the number of places approved by the Secretary of State, and are displayed to the nearest whole number.

Children accommodated - by gender, age, ethnicity or length of stay  - percentages: Based on the number of children accommodated and are shown to the nearest whole number. Due to rounding the totals may not sum to 100%

Individual home notes are:

  • Beechfield was undergoing renovation between 2017 and 2019 whilst unoccupied. It closed in 2019.
  • Swanwick Lodge reported ongoing staffing issues and building works. Beds are due to increase over time based on a recruitment programme and completion of building works.
  • Leverton Hall closed on 31 July 2014.
  • Red Bank closed on 31 May 2014. It included the homes Newton House, Willows House and Vardy House.
  • Adel Beck was previously known as East Moor until January 2015.
  • Marydale Lodge was previously known as St Catherine's until 2020.
  • Hillside is the secure children's home in Wales.

Historical amendments: Figures for 2019 may differ between releases due to historical amendments. 

Disclosure control

The Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires us to take reasonable steps to ensure that our published or disseminated statistics protect confidentiality.

The data that underpins this release is collected in an aggregate form. Where there is a single child with a particular characteristic, prior knowledge would be required to determine which child it is.

The following symbols have been used in the releases (updated to align with GSS standards):

  • ‘c’ to protect confidentiality. Secondary suppression may be required
  • ‘0’ where the original figure submitted is zero
  • ‘z’ means not applicable
  • ‘x’ means not available (for example ethnicity in years before 2021 when it was first collected).

We take reasonable steps to ensure our published statistics protect confidentiality. To ensure a suppressed figure cannot be identified by simple arithmetic, secondary suppression may be applied.

Percentages are displayed to the nearest whole number.

Due to rounding, it is possible that the sum of the category percentages may not always total to 100%.

Note in this release, due to the size of the cohort, percentages can be volatile. In addition, this is a snapshot at the end of the reporting year so there will naturally be fluctuations in the data over time.

Related information

Ofsted

Ofsted publishes official statistics annually on children's social care in England

Secure children's homes are one of a number of types of accommodation that the statistics cover.  We check the number of approved places we publish for each home against the maximum number of places reported by Ofsted. However, data may not always match up due to slight differences in interpretation of classifications.

Youth Custody Data

The MoJ published youth custody data monthly on children and young people in custody within secure children's homes, secure training centres and young offender institutions. However, the MoJ does not include children placed in a secure children's home on a welfare basis. 

We compare the under 18-year old secure population accommodated in secure children's homes from table ‘2.4 Accom Type’ of the MoJ publication with those children detained and placed by the YCS, and those placed in a criminal justice context in this DfE release. Both sets of figures are useful in their own right, however there are small differences in definitions and methodology which can explain any differences in the two populations:

  1. The MoJ figures are for those accommodated in secure children's homes aged under 18 years old, whereas the DfE figures include children and young people of all ages.
  2. The MoJ figures are a monthly snapshot of the custodial population in the secure estate for children and young people.  They are taken on the last Friday of each month or the first Friday of the following month, depending on which is nearest to the actual month end.
  3. Both sets of figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and can be subject to change over time. The MoJ figures have been drawn from the internal YCS placements system (eAsset, which replaced SACHS in April 2012) which is populated by the YCS upon placement of children into custody. The DfE figures are taken from local records held by secure children's homes.

Rest of the UK

Figures on the number of children accommodated in secure children's homes in Scotland are published in the Children's and Social Work Statistics Scotland publication.

Northern Ireland does not produce statistics relating specifically to secure accommodation.

Users and usage

DfE, central and local Government

The information in this release includes the number of:

  • secure children's homes in England and Wales
  • places approved
  • places in use or available for use
  • children accommodated by age, gender, length of stay, type of placement and ethnicity.

It provides a comprehensive summary of the capacity within secure homes and trends within the sector to inform policy development.

Other users

We have less clarity on the uses made of this data outside Government. 

A user consultation was carried out in 2011 but no responses were received. We will continue to engage with users to make sure the release meets their needs and welcome feedback from new or previously unknown users. 

If you would like to feedback on the release, then please contact: CLA.stats@education.gov.uk