Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Young offenders 'far from families'

Some young offenders are being locked up 200 miles away from their families
Some young offenders are being locked up 200 miles away from their families

Children and young people are being locked up in secure accommodation more than 200 miles away from their families, a report has found.

Ofsted inspectors said there was limited availability of appropriate placements, leading to young people being deprived of support and missing out on key services in areas such as drugs and alcohol misuse, education, training and housing.

Young people and their families also described not knowing where they were being taken once they left court and not finding out until they had arrived, causing "considerable distress".

Unless these problems were tackled systematically, the rates of re-offending and re-referral among young people are unlikely to fall, the report found.

John Goldup, Ofsted's director of social care, said: "Young people moving through the secure estate need support which is well co-ordinated, continuous and as close to home as possible if they are to successfully reintegrate into the community.

"While a wide range of factors may lead to offending behaviour, it is clear that young people's chances of avoiding re-offending are damaged if they lose contact with their families, with professionals who are trying to work with them, and with the education and training opportunities they will need on discharge."

The inspectors' report, Admission and Discharge from Secure Accommodation, said it was clear that the services currently received by young people in secure settings were not preventing re-offending.

It found one young person was visited by his parents just once in four months after being placed in a unit more than 200 miles away from his home.

His mother was disabled, could only travel by public transport, and had to arrange childcare for other children in her family for each visit, the report said.

As well as making it harder for families to visit, distant placements also limited the extent to which families could be directly involved in planning and reviews, and increased the young people's unhappiness and sense of vulnerability, Ofsted found.

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