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3.3.7 Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews


This procedure applies to children placed in Secure Accommodation.


This chapter was reviewed and updated in April 2020. The requirement for clear separation of reviews (for clarifying whether the criteria for keeping a child in secure accommodation are met, and the child’s looked after review) has been emphasised. Clarifying whether the criteria for keeping a child in secure accommodation are met must come before a LAC review so the decision can inform the LAC review and they must be chaired by different individuals.


  1. Purpose of Secure Accommodation Reviews
  2. Timing of Secure Accommodation Reviews
  3. Chairing of Secure Accommodation Reviews
  4. Secure Accommodation Review Panel
  5. Arranging a Secure Accommodation Panel
  6. Invitations
  7. Preparation for Secure Accommodation Reviews
  8. Conducting the Secure Accommodation Review
  9. Review Outcome

1. Purpose of Secure Accommodation Reviews

Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 outlines that a child who is being looked after by a local authority may not be placed or remain in secure accommodation unless:

  1. i) He has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation; and

    ii) If he absconds, he is likely to suffer significant harm; or
  2. That if he is kept in any other description of accommodation he is likely to injure himself or other persons.

The overall purpose of a Secure Accommodation Review is to ensure that the child's welfare is being promoted and safeguarded. In particular, those carrying out the review must satisfy themselves:

  • Whether the criteria for keeping the child in secure accommodation still apply;
  • Whether such a placement continues to be necessary; and
  • Whether any other form of accommodation would be appropriate.

There are separate and different processes for reviewing a young person’s case if they are remanded to secure accommodation by the courts or detained under the Mental Health Act.

2. Timing of Secure Accommodation Reviews

An Initial Secure Accommodation Review must be convened within 28 days of a child being placed in secure accommodation, and then held at intervals not exceeding 3 months.

These are maximum timescales.

3. Chairing of Secure Accommodation Reviews

Secure Accommodation Review Panels must be chaired by an appropriately experienced and trained Council officer. Normally an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) from the Children's Services Department's Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) will conduct the Reviews.

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who chairs the Review will not be the child’s IRO.

4. Secure Accommodation Review Panel

The Secure Accommodation Review Panel is responsible for listening to the views of those who attend/contribute, and coming to a decision about whether they believe the criteria for secure accommodation are still met. The Panel cannot come to a decision about whether the child should remain or leave secure accommodation; it can only make a recommendation on this to the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation) (who is the Deputy Director, Children's Specialist Services or his/her nominated deputy)

The Panel consists of three people, one of whom must be independent of the local authority and the authority managing the secure unit - this would normally be a VOICE representative. The other two people will be:

  • A senior manager of the Children's Social Care Service but not in line management with regard to the case; and
  • An Independent Reviewing Officer (who will chair the Panel).

5. Arranging a Secure Accommodation Panel

Within 3 days of receiving notification of the placement from the social worker, the Quality Assurance Unit will organise the secure review by contacting the social worker, Panel members, VOICE and the relevant secure unit. Thereafter, the QA unit will convene further meetings as required.

The Review Panel will meet at the relevant secure unit.

The Secure Accommodation Review is separate to a Looked After Review and is not a substitute for it. It must be held first, so the recommendations and subsequent decisions made can inform the Looked After Review.

6. Invitations

Apart from those who form the Secure Accommodation Panel, the following people should be invited:

  1. The child and parent(s) and anyone else holding Parental Responsibility;
  2. The child's social worker and team or practice manager;
  3. Those who previously have had or may have care of the child upon discharge;
  4. The Children's Guardian;
  5. The child's Independent Visitor or Advocate, if appointed;
  6. The Link/Keyworker for the child from the Secure Unit;
  7. An appropriate manager from the Secure Unit;
  8. The child's solicitor if applicable.

The QAU should send written invitations to all those invited including the parent(s) and the child, and will also send written confirmation of the date of the review to the secure unit. The child should also be sent a written guide to secure accommodation.

7. Preparation for Secure Accommodation Reviews

Prior to the Secure Accommodation Review, the social worker will ensure the following tasks are undertaken:

  • The social worker has prepared an up to date report for the review. This should include the background history of the child, an up to date chronology and the proposed care plan for the child including an exit plan;
  • The child and parent(s) are clear about the purpose of the Secure Accommodation Review and are given adequate support to prepare for it, which may include arranging for an advocate to assist them particularly where the child is under 13, or has special needs or requires extra support.

    The social worker should go through the purpose of the review with the child and go through the written report and proposed Care Plan;
  • Arrangements have been made for the staff in the secure placement to prepare a written report, taking account of the progress made with the child and stating their view as to whether the criteria still apply and whether any other type of placement would be an appropriate alternative to the child remaining in secure accommodation.

The social worker should send their Report, to the secure unit and to the QAU at least 1 week before the Review date. The QAU will forward copies of the report to Panel members.

The QAU will also make the necessary arrangements for the Panel members to travel to the review. The social worker should make the arrangements for him/herself and the parents.

8. Conducting the Secure Accommodation Review

The Secure Accommodation Review does not take the place of a Looked After Review or other review; it is distinctly different in its scope and function.

However, it is acceptable and may be helpful and efficient to conduct the Secure Accommodation Review on the same day as other reviews, including the Looked After Review.

The review will have all the participants in the meeting from the beginning, including the child, their parents, staff from the secure placement, the social worker and any other relevant people.

The meeting will be conducted in a child-friendly and inclusive manner, with the Chair taking responsibility for ensuring that contributions are made to the process in way that enables everyone to understand what is going on.

Interpreters and signers must be used when there are people involved with limited understanding of English or people with hearing difficulties

The agenda of the meeting will consist of:

  • Background history of the young person;
  • Up to date placement report;
  • Periods of restraint;
  • Mobility Plan;
  • Attitude to absconding;
  • Exit Plan (what is the proposed timescale for the young person to move on and what is the next stage);
  • Views of the individual parties present.

Following this the Panel members will withdraw to consider the following three questions:

  • Whether the criteria continue to apply on the day of the review, and even if they do;
  • Whether the placement in secure accommodation continues to be necessary;
  • Whether any other description of accommodation would be appropriate.

In considering these matters the Panel must first and foremost have regard to the child's welfare and best interests.

It is not sufficient simply to retain a child in secure accommodation to complete an assessment or treatment programme or whilst other accommodation is sought. The only justifiable reason for keeping a child in a secure accommodation setting is that this is required in order to ensure the safety of the child or the safety of other people, and there is no less restrictive alternative placement or set of arrangements in the community that would be capable of achieving this.

Regard must be given to the fact that it is unlawful for the liberty of a child to be restricted unless the criteria are met, no matter how short the period of security.

Once the Panel has made a decision, the meeting will reconvene for the Panel Chair to outline the decisions of the Panel and to draw up any further recommendations from the meeting. Recommendations may be on related issues, for example mobility and visiting arrangements.

Where relevant, a date for the next Review Panel should also be fixed.

9. Review Outcome

Minutes will be prepared by the Independent Reviewing Officer and sent to the Quality Assurance Unit for circulation to all participants and those who were invited but unable to attend.

The local authority must, as far as is practicable, notify all of those who were required to be consulted (even if it was not practicable to consult them) of:

  1. The outcome of the review;
  2. What action (if any) they propose to take;
  3. Their reasons for taking or not taking such action.

(Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991, Regulation 16(3) as amended by Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1992)

If the above is not covered by the content of the minutes, the Independent Reviewing Officer should agree with the social worker how this is to be communicated.

The outcome of the Secure Review should be sent in writing to all relevant people within 10 working days of the Review Panel.

If the outcome of the review is that the criteria for restricting liberty no longer apply, the placement is no longer necessary or there is an appropriate alternative placement, then the Designated Manager (Secure Accommodation) should be informed. The local authority must then immediately carry out a Looked After Review.