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Outcomes for high-risk young people referred to secure children’s homes for welfare reasons: a population record linkage study in England

Sophie Wood (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Annie Williams (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Nell Warner (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Helen Ruth Hodges (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Aimee Cummings (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Donald Forrester (CASCADE, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 2 May 2024

Issue publication date: 27 June 2024

37

Abstract

Purpose

Secure children’s homes (SCHs) restrict the liberty of young people considered to be a danger to themselves or others. However, not all young people referred to SCHs find a placement, and little is known about the outcomes of the young person after an SCH or alternative placement. The purpose of this paper is to understand which characteristics most likely predict allocation to an SCH placement, and to explore the outcomes of the young people in the year after referral.

Design/methodology/approach

A retrospective electronic cohort study was conducted using linked social care data sets in England. The study population was all young people from England referred to SCHs for welfare reasons between 1st October 2016 to 31st March 2018 (n = 527). Logistic regression tested for differences in characteristics of SCH placement allocation and outcomes in the year after referral.

Findings

In total, 60% of young people referred to an SCH were allocated a place. Factors predicting successful or unsuccessful SCH allocation were previous placement in an SCH (OR = 2.12, p = 0.01); being female (OR = 2.26, p = 0.001); older age (OR = 0.75, p = 0.001); and a history of challenging behaviour (OR = 0.34, p = 0.01). In the year after referral, there were little differences in outcomes between young people placed in a SCH versus alternative accommodation.

Originality/value

The study raised concerns about the capacity of current services to recognise and meet the needs of this complex and vulnerable group of young people and highlights the necessity to explore and evaluate alternatives to SCHs.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Secure Welfare Coordination Unit for providing the data and answering their many questions.

Funding sources: This study was commissioned by What Works for Children’s Social Care and funded by the Department for Education, England, UK (grant number: 41070002828). The CASCADE partnership receives infrastructure funding from Health and Care Research Wales.

Citation

Wood, S., Williams, A., Warner, N., Hodges, H.R., Cummings, A. and Forrester, D. (2024), "Outcomes for high-risk young people referred to secure children’s homes for welfare reasons: a population record linkage study in England", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 105-122. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-04-2023-0018

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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