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‘Nearly 1,500 children in England are locked up by the state’: Children’s Commissioner

‘A third of a billion a year is spent on 1,465 children’

There were 1,465 children in England securely detained in 2018, of whom 873 were in held in youth justice settings, 505 were in mental health wards and 87 were in secure children's homes for their own welfare. However, this number is likely to be an underestimate due to gaps in the data. These are principal findings of a report published by Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England.

The report shines a light on the hundreds of children in England who are locked up in institutions across the country. The report, Who are they? Where are they? Children locked up, gathers together for the first time all the data currently available about those children in England living in secure children's homes, youth justice settings, mental health wards and other residential placements, either for their own safety or the safety of others.

The report seeks to identify who these children are and where they living, the costs of keeping them locked up, whether these institutions always meet their complex needs and whether different decisions could have been taken to prevent these children being locked away.
Other main findings in the report include:

The Children's Commissioner makes a number of recommendations in her report, including:

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, commenting on the report, said:

"Our research shows the system that detains [children] is messy and the state often lacks very basic information about who all these children are, where they are living and why they are there. Shockingly, we found over 200 children who would have remained completely invisible in the national data had we not asked about them.

"Locking children up is an extreme form of intervention. We are spending millions of pounds on these packages of care and yet there is far too little oversight of why they are there, their journeys into this system and the safeguards in place to protect them once they are there. These children are some of the most vulnerable and have often repeatedly been let down by the state earlier in their lives, in some cases turned away from foster homes or excluded from school.

"In the past it has been too easy to simply lock up children and not worry about their outcomes. We need a much better system that invests in early help and provides targeted support to children who are in danger of entering the criminal justice system or who are growing up in families with severe problems."

For the report, click here. For a response by the Local Government Association, click here.