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5.5.1 Safeguarding Young People in the Secure Estate


YJB Custody information


This chapter was updated in November 2015. The above link was added to YJB Custody information. Additionally, minor amendments were made throughout and the chapter should be re-read.


  1. Essential Safeguards
  2. Joint Safeguarding Responsibilities
  3. Reasons for Detention
  4. Response to Child Protection Concerns

1. Essential Safeguards

All children and young people living away from home including those in the custodial secure estate (e.g. Youth Offenders' Institutes, Secure Training Centres or Secure Children's Homes) are entitled to receive the same standards of care and protection from harm that they would receive from any reasonable parent.

There are a number of essential safeguards which every agency should have in every setting where it holds the responsibility for children and young people living away from home to prevent harm. They are as follows:

  • Young people should feel valued and respected and their self esteem promoted;
  • There is openness on the part of the institution to the external world and external scrutiny, including from families and the wider community;
  • Workers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding; alert to children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm; and knowledgeable about how to implement the child protection procedures;
  • Young people have access to a trusted adult outside the institution and are made aware of the help they could receive from Childline and other help lines;
  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, user friendly and readily accessible to children and young people, including those who are disabled and for whom English is not their first language;
  • Recruitment and selection processes are rigorous;
  • There are clear procedures available for workers to voice their own concerns about other staff without prejudicing their own position and prospects;
  • There is a respect for diversity and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
  • There should be a focus on the particular needs of young women and girls.

It should be noted that children and young people living away from home are more vulnerable to abuse by other children and young people.

2. Joint Safeguarding Responsibilities

The Youth Offending Service will be the point of contact for secure estate staff throughout the young persons detention and should also include staff from the Safeguards/Social Work Team.

Whilst professionals working with this group of young people will generally be employed within the Youth Offending Service, all professionals must be mindful that young people placed in the secure estate face significant dangers and may be at risk of:

  • Suicide or attempted suicide;
  • Self harming;
  • Emotional and mental health problems/needs;
  • Bullying;
  • Involvement in further criminal activities or drug abuse;
  • Racist or homophobic attack;
  • Radicalisation

This is not an exhaustive list of potential risks.

It should also be noted that young people who are or have previously been Looked After may be at enhanced risk.

Safeguarding decision-making applies at the earliest stage possible and its effectiveness will be based on a joint approach by the multi agency Youth Offending Service, Children's Social Care and the secure establishment.

The Youth Offending Service will ensure that the level of risks and vulnerabilities are comprehensively assessed and recorded (as part of an Asset Assessment) whenever there is a likelihood of a custodial outcome for a young person. Relevant information that is known about the young person by all agencies should be shared with the Youth Offending Service for this purpose. This will be forwarded to the relevant secure estate venue once a court decision has been made and placement identified.

Each Young Offenders' Institution, Secure Training Centre and Secure Children's Home must maintain and follow policies and procedures, which set out how they are going to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities and which are consistent with the Local Safeguarding Children Board/Partnership for its area, and which are also outlined in Working Together to Safeguard Children.

This will include how they deal with bullying incidents and child protection concerns, the rewards and sanctions policy of the establishment, the management of challenging behaviour and use of restraint, healthcare and substance misuse procedures, complaints and advocacy procedures.

The professionals working with the young person must ensure that the young person is aware of, or knows how to access, the safeguarding policies and procedures for the secure estate venue within which he or she is living.

During the custodial period, the joint safeguarding responsibilities will continue to apply.

The Youth Offending Service will be the point of contact for secure estate staff throughout the young person's detention. They, together with Children's Social Care in appropriate cases, will put in place a re-settlement plan for the young person on release. This will include liaising with community-based agencies that can contribute to the welfare needs of the young person and facilitating information sharing exchanges that will assist the young person on his or her release.

However, all professionals involved with the young person must update each other on any developments relating to the welfare of the young person and his or her needs.

All agencies must also be aware of any ongoing safeguarding arrangements for the young person prior to his or her release, their part in those arrangements and who is the coordinator.

3. Reasons for Detention

Young people in the secure estate may be there on remand or because they are the subject of a custodial sentence.

If they are remanded to local authority accommodation and in a secure placement (usually a Secure Training Centre or a Secure Children's Home), they are regarded as Looked After by the local authority for their ordinary residence and will be the subject of statutory social work visits and Looked After Reviews chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer for that authority. (The statutory social work visits are in addition to monthly visits by the Youth Offending Service).

Since the introduction of The LASPO Act 2012 - ALL young people who enter custody on remand are now classed as Looked After Children and are therefore eligible for the statutory visits, reviews etc as described above.

If they are sentenced to custody, they will be detained in a Young Offenders' Institution, Secure Training Centre or a Secure Children's Home.

4. Response to Child Protection Concerns

If information comes to light from whatever source that a young person has suffered or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm in the secure placement, the information must immediately be shared with the Head of Safeguards, Child Protection Coordinator or Duty Governor within the YOI.

The investigation of child protection incidents that take place within the secure establishment is the responsibility of the local authority for the area where the secure establishment is located.

The home authority of the young person concerned is not the investigator in these circumstances although the home Youth Offending Service and Children's Social Care must be consulted and share information as required.

If a formal referral is made to Children's Social Care, a Strategy Discussion/Meeting will take place, led by the Children's Social Care for the area where the young person is placed. This should include information shared by the YOS/Children's Social Care.

The Strategy Discussion/ Meeting must agree:

  • The measures necessary to safeguard the young person's welfare;
  • Whether a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated by Children's Social Care and the Police, and if so, the remit and timescale for this; and
  • The respective roles of the various agencies involved.