Almost 1,500 children in England are locked up by the state at a cost of a third of a billion a year

16 May 2019 01:50 PM

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, is today publishing a report shining 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 some of the most vulnerable children in England – those 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.

Some of the 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:

“There are hundreds of children in England growing up behind closed doors, locked away for their own safety or the safety of others. They should never be invisible or forgotten. Our research shows the system that detains them 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.”

Find out more and read the report