A substantial minority of children had a significant history of escalating social care involvement, including receiving support through child protection planning, or they were already in care at the time of the initial remand
The inspectorates of prison and probation alongside Ofsted have today published a joint thematic inspection of work with children subject to remand in youth detention. Its headline conclusion was that some children could be better cared for in the community rather than youth detention.
At any given time, there are around 200 to 250 children remanded in youth detention. Some of these children are extremely vulnerable and a minority have been charged with very serious offences that resulted in life-changing injuries or loss of life.
The inspection found:
In the last year for which figures are available (2021/2022), 1,200 children were remanded in youth detention accommodation (RYDA) over the course of the year by the courts.
Remanded children make up an increasing proportion of the child custodial population. Children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are over-represented in the remand population, and that over-representation is increasing.
Nearly half of the children in the cases reviewed by the inspectorates had no previous convictions although their difficulties were often known to other services.
A substantial minority of children had a significant history of escalating social care involvement, including receiving support through child protection planning, or they were already in care at the time of the initial remand (33 per cent of the RYDA sample).
We have already seen that making no comment is not always in children’s best interests. Another issue is that when the police refuse bail and the child has to be held overnight to appear in court the next day, the police have a legal duty to consider releasing the child to children’s services’ care. The child was released in just four out of the 61 cases reviewed with a key problem being the absence of suitable local authority accommodation.
Often the discussion between the police and local authority was perfunctory and did not properly apply the tests set out in the legislation and guidance. Youth Justice Services (YJS) can support police bail to reduce the need for children to be detained, but most (57%) did not provide this support.
In just under three-quarters of cases the YJS did not offer a bail programme at the child’s first remand hearing. This was often because suitable accommodation was not available or YJS staff were not confident that they could manage the risks posed by the child in the community.
The alternative to custodial remand is community remand. This can be Remand in Local Authority Accommodation (RLAA), intensive supervision and surveillance bail or another bail programme. In our survey, 41 YJSs out of 115 had not had an RLAA in the previous 12 months. In many areas it was not a practical option, because of the lack of available placements, unless the child was placed at home or with another family member.
The secure estate
Children on remand can be placed in secure children’s homes, STCs or YOIs. Multiple overlapping planning and review meetings often take place, leaving the child confused as to their purpose. The quality of care at the secure children’s homes is good, and the secure estate and community-based services work together effectively for those children. The experience of children in STCs and YOIs is much poorer,
Returning to the community
Uncertainty about the length of the remand makes planning difficult. Children can be released on bail unexpectedly, or the child may be acquitted, sometimes after a lengthy period in youth detention. Inspectors saw good contingency planning in the secure children’s homes, where they often had parallel plans for the child being released imminently and for remaining in custody. This was not the case in STCs and YOIs.
Any child on remand for more than 13 weeks is eligible to care leaver support but this was not always provided.
Interim Chief Inspector of Probation Sue McAllister issued a statement to accompany the report saying:
“While we acknowledge that for some children remand into youth detention is necessary due to the severity of an alleged crime, we found that more could be safely managed in the community. Where effective and wide-ranging support is in place, Youth Justice Services can properly care for a child, monitor their risk of serious harm, and place them in suitable accommodation. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many services and results in children being placed in youth detention or secure children’s homes, often for long periods of time.”