Judge hits out at lack of provision of secure accommodation for teenager

A judge is to protest to ministers for the second time in a year about the lack of secure accommodation for vulnerable young people.

Hayden J said in M (A Child : secure accommodation order) (Rev 1) [2017] EWHC 3021 on an application by a borough council for a secure accommodation order under s25 of the Children Act 1989 for ‘M’ that “it is profoundly depressing that…the local authority has not ultimately been able to find a unit that is prepared to accommodate M.

“Thus I find myself, once again, in a position of considering the needs of a vulnerable young person in the care of the state where the state itself is unable to meet the needs of a child which they themselves purport to parent.”

The judge said M was a risk to herself, her carers, other young people and the public generally to the extent of danger of serious injury and so granted the order initially for three months.

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He said: “Once again, a young and vulnerable person finds herself in a parlous situation where there is wholly inadequate provision.”

Hayden J earlier this year complained to ministers about the lack of accommodation in a case involving the London Borough of Southwark.

He added: “I directed that [that] judgment be forwarded to the minister of state for education.

“I find it necessary to do the same in this case. It is impossible not to confront the depressing reality that current secure accommodation resources in England and Wales are inadequate.”

In the latest case 15-year-old M who has “exceptionally complex needs and behavioural problems” had had a “bleak and desperate” early childhood in which she witnessed verbal, emotional and physical abuse “which on my evaluation of the evidence is at the highest end of the index of gravity”, the judgment said.

M was for lengthy periods locked in her bedroom by her parents and ”predictably to my mind, M's frustration and obvious sense of impotence in communicating anger and frustration has caused her to behave in a manner which is extremely aggressive and violent”.

Such incidents had included frequent assaults on social workers, culminating in her kidnapping a female staff member who was threatened with a shard of glass.

Mark Smulian

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