In England and Wales children (those aged under 18) remanded to custody or sentenced to custody are placed in one of three types of institution:
• a Young Offenders Institution (YOI);
• a Secure Training Centre (STC) or
• a Secure Children’s Home (SCH).
In 2018/19, 73% of those in youth custody were placed in a YOI, 17% in an STC and 10% in a SCH. There was an average of 859 under-18-year-olds in youth custody at the end of any given month. Just over a quarter of the youth custody population in 2018 was being held on remand. The remainder had been sentenced to custody.
Concerns have been raised about the current provision of youth custody. These include:
• a lack of safety;
• the use of restraint and force including the use of pain-inducing techniques;
• the segregation of children away from others;
• a lack of purposeful activity and time out of cells;
• the disproportionate number of BAME children in custody; and
• the distance away from home that children are sometimes held.
The Government initiated a review of youth justice in 2016. Charlie Taylor’s review included proposals for the reform of youth custody by the introduction of secure schools. The Government accepted this proposal and started implementation with the creation of the first secure school on the site of the current Medway STC. Interested groups have raised concerns about the model of secure schools and about the use of the Medway site.
Reference: Beard, J. (2020). Youth Custody. CBP/8557. London: HoC Library
Secure Children’s Homes have a higher ratio of staff to children than YOIs and STCs and are small facilities of between 7 to 38 beds (2019). They are designed to accommodate boys and girls aged 10–17 who are assessed as being particularly vulnerable.
As well as children held on justice grounds (either after conviction or on remand) SCHs accommodate children detained on welfare grounds for their protection or the protection of others.
There are currently 8 SCHs in England and Wales that detain children on justice grounds. They are operated by local authorities. SCHs are characterised by a child care rather than a custodial ethos. The Department for Education, rather than the Ministry of Justice, has responsibility for SCHs. SCHs were created by the Children Act 1989 and operate under Part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000 and applicable regulations.
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