5.16 Safeguarding the Welfare of Norfolk Children and Young People in police custody and the secure estate

1. Introduction

The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership has produced this protocol to meet the requirement to improve arrangements to safeguard children and young people placed in police custody and custodial establishments as set out in government guidance LAC 26 (2004) ‘Safeguarding and Promoting the welfare of children and young people in Custody’.

Children and young people in police custody are held in Police Investigation Centres (PICs). Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary have six PICs. Four of the PICs are in Norfolk including Wymondham, Aylsham, Gorleston and King’s Lynn. Children and young people from Thetford and the surrounding villages are likely to be held in Bury St Edmunds PIC.

Children under the age of 18 who are remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation or given custodial sentences are detained in one of the following:

  • A Young Offenders Institution (YOI)[1];
  • Secure Training Centres;
  • Local Authority Secure Children’s Homes.

Children detained in a secure forensic unit in virtue of a hospital order are not covered within this protocol; these young people are subject to health as distinct from criminal justice procedures.

For Norfolk children this means that their period of remand will be out of county.  The most likely placement will be either Oak Hill Secure Training Centre (Leicestershire), HMYOI Cookham Wood (Kent), HMYOI Wetherby (Yorkshire) or HMYOI Feltham (Middlesex).

The NSCP is committed to promoting and safeguarding the welfare of all such children as the duty of care continues regardless of the child’s remand location.  It is highly likely that at the end of sentence the child will return to Norfolk.

Practitioners working with this client group need to remain mindful that for all children there are significant dangers inherent in being detained in the secure estate. There is an increased risk to children in respect of :

  • Suicide;
  • Self-harming;
  • Existing mental health; issues exacerbating or onset of poor mental health;
  • Bullying;
  • Gang related violence and exploitation;
  • Involvement in further criminal activities, and or drug abuse, amongst other things;
  • Isolation from family/ social network.

Each centre holding those aged under 18 should have in place an annually reviewed safeguarding children policy. The policy is designed to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and should cover issues such as child protection, risk of harm, restraint, recruitment and information sharing. A safeguarding children manager should be appointed and will be responsible for implementation of this policy.

Detailed guidance on the safeguarding children policy, the roles of the safeguarding children manager and the safeguarding children committee, and the role of the establishment in relation to the LSCB can be found in Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 08/2012 ‘Care and Management of Young People’. Revised 2021

[1] In July 2013 the Youth Justice Board decommissioned all YOI beds for female childern. As a result all females remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation or sentenced to custody will be placed in a Secure Training Centre or Secure Children’s Home.

2. Diversity

The NSCP is bound by the provision and spirit of the relevant legislation and all its work is informed by a commitment to the promotion of diversity. All constituent agencies are required to ensure that their services are equally underpinned by such commitment.

The NSCP believes that the welfare of children is of paramount concern, and that their individual needs and rights should be respected. Those working with children should be sensitive to the diversity of the child’s circumstances and backgrounds (e.g. in respect of their age, gender, physical and mental ability, ethnicity, culture and religion, language, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status).

These principles underpin all NSCP policies, procedures, protocols and training.

The NSCP will use its influence to promote these principles and will seek wherever possible, both in its own work and that of its partner agencies, to eliminate discrimination, harassment and attacks on any group or individual.

We will monitor the effectiveness of our work, and that of partner agencies, in these areas, and continuously seek to improve our performance.

3. Children and Young People in Police Custody

A sound safeguarding system for children and young people detained in police custody should prioritise the following elements:

  • Detention in the police station is for a minimum period of time and children who are charged but cannot be released on bail are transferred to the care of the local authority in a timely fashion;
  • Transfer of children to local authority accommodation (under PACE) is monitored at an operational and strategic level;
  • Safeguarding needs of children in police custody are robustly prioritised, monitored, reviewed and met;
  • Custody staff are suitably trained in safeguarding and managing children in custody;
  • A specific custody policy in relation to children is in place;
  • Robust, informed and independent scrutiny is provided by suitably trained staff who are able to challenge inappropriate decision-making and activity.

The rules governing the ‘care’ of children and young people in police custody are largely determined by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (PACE).

Nationally Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) published a report, ‘Who’s looking out for the children’ in December 2011 regarding their joint inspection of children in police detention and the provision of appropriate adult services.

The report makes clear that there is a critical role for local safeguarding boards especially in regard of recommendation twelve which suggests that the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (NSCP) should monitor the recommendations of the HMIP report.  The recommendations are mostly directed at NSCP partners and aim to ensure that children are treated as individuals and their needs are recognised and addressed to enable them to understand and participate in the arrest-to-charge process.

The established partnerships between the police, Norfolk Youth Justice Service (NYJS), local authority, health service and NSCP must provide the leadership, direction and supervision to enable their staff to properly understand their duty to safeguard children and young people and work effectively together to improve outcomes for children.

In Norfolk a ‘Protocol on the Transfer of Young People to Local Authority Accommodation from Police Custody (PACE Protocol) 2021’ governs the joint working arrangements for transferring children from police custody to local authority accommodation. The provision of Appropriate Adult services is governed by a joint protocol between Norfolk YJS, Norfolk Constabulary and the Appropriate Adult provider.

PACE requires that appropriate adult services are provided to all children aged under 18, in most cases a parent or carer acts as the appropriate adult.

4. Children Remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation

The Youth Court may remand to the secure estate when certain legal criteria are met. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) makes some significant changes to various aspects of youth justice legislation as follows:

  • The creation of a single remand framework to replace the previous complex arrangements (with seventeen year olds being treated as children rather than adults);
  • Transferring greater financial responsibility for remands to youth detention accommodation (secure accommodation including youth prisons Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) from the YJB to local authorities to incentivise effective oversight; and
  • The extension of ‘looked after child’ status to all remanded young people including those remanded to YOIs.

The provisions came into force on 3 December 2012.

Where the child is subject to a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation the child acquires ‘Looked After’ status and Norfolk Children’s Services becomes the responsible parent for the length of the remand. Children may be placed in a YOI, Local Authority Secure Children’s Home (LASCH) or one of the four Secure Training Centres (STCs) in England and Wales. The age and vulnerability of the child will determine the type of establishment they are placed in although due to capacity issues this is not always possible.

A co-working agreement in relation to children in Court facing a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation and guidance on the role of the local authority when a child  becomes looked after by virtue of a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation can be found in the LAC section of the Norfolk Social Care Manual.

5. Children Sentenced to Custody

Children who are sentenced to custody usually do so via a Detention and Training Order or for the most serious and exceptional offenders via the sentencing framework laid out in the dangerous offenders provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and Section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Court Act 2000.

Unless a child is already subject to a Care Order, the child who has been subject to a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation loses his/her ‘Looked After’ status on sentence although Children’s Services should continue their involvement with the child because he/she may have Care Leaver/Former Relevant Care Leaver status or be deemed to be a child in need.

Detention and Training Orders have a maximum length of 2 years and a minimum period of 4 months; half the time is spent in the secure estate and the other half is spent in the community where the child is subject to a licence supervised by the Norfolk Youth Justice Service. Sentences are much longer for young people sentenced under the Dangerousness and Section 91 provisions.

Guidance on the responsibilities of the local authority in relation to looked after children sentenced to custody can be found in the LAC section of the Norfolk Social Care Manual.

6. Safeguarding in the Secure Estate

Section 11 of the Children’s Act 2004 places a duty on:

  • Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions;
  • Directors of Secure Training Centres; and
  • Youth Offending Teams/Services.

Working Together 2023 states that these organisations should have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including:

  • A clear line of accountability for the commissioning and/or provision of services designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  • A senior board level lead to take leadership responsibility for the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements;
  • A culture of listening to children and taking account of their wishes and feelings, both in individual decisions and the development of services;
  • Arrangements which set out clearly the processes for sharing information, with other professionals and with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (NSCP);
  • A designated professional lead (or, for health provider organisations, named professionals) for safeguarding. Their role is to support other professionals in their agencies to recognise the needs of children, including rescue from possible abuse or neglect. Designated professional roles should always be explicitly defined in job descriptions. Professionals should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively;
  • Safe recruitment practices for individuals whom the organisation will permit to work regularly with children, including policies on when to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service check;
  • Appropriate supervision and support for staff, including undertaking safeguarding training;
  • Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role;
  • Staff should be given a mandatory induction, which includes familiarisation with child protection responsibilities and procedures to be followed if anyone has any concerns about a child’s safety or welfare; and
  • All professionals should have regular reviews of their own practice to ensure they improve over time;
  • Clear policies in line with those from the NSCP for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:
    • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
    • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
    • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.

Each centre holding those aged under 18 should have in place an annually reviewed safeguarding children policy. The policy is designed to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and should cover issues such as child protection, risk of harm, restraint, recruitment and information sharing. A safeguarding children manager should be appointed and will be responsible for implementation of this policy.

Detailed guidance on the safeguarding children policy, the roles of the safeguarding children manager and the safeguarding children committee, and the role of the establishment in relation to the NSCP can be found in Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 08/2012 ‘Care and Management of Young People’.

Safeguarding decision-making applies at the earliest possible stage and its effectiveness is premised on a joint approach by the local YJS, Children’s Services Department and the relevant secure establishment.

Most young people who become subject to a custodial remand and all Norfolk based children who are sentenced to custody will already be known to the Norfolk Youth Justice Service. In both situations the NYJS practitioner will complete an assessment tool (ASSET PLUS) with the child. ASSET PLUS offers a comprehensive assessment framework and requires the NYJS practitioner to identify all aspects of a child’s behaviour, thought processes, physical and mental health, family and social circumstances that are relevant to his or her offending.

The child’s welfare and circumstances are considered carefully in ASSET PLUS and in particular the NYJS practitioner is required to identify any factors that are relevant to the vulnerability of the child. Vulnerability means the possibility of harm being caused to the child. Vulnerability could include factors related to child protection, bullying, risk taking behaviour, self-harm suicidal behaviour. It is vital that if the child is already active to Children’s Services because he/she is subject to a Care Order, has Care Leaver status, is a child in need of protection or ‘looked after’ by virtue of a remand to Youth Detention Accommodation, or is accommodated at the time of the court proceedings that the allocated Social Worker and the NYJS practitioner share their assessment information as early as possible in the process i.e. during the court proceedings prior to sentence. The Social Worker must alert the NYJS practitioner if there is any known history or concern regarding vulnerability.

If the child is looked after or has leaving care status the Social Worker must share information from the Looked after Children documentation or Pathway Planning documentation with the NYJS practitioner. Relevant information held about the child by all agencies will be disclosed to the NYJS practitioner for the purposes of preparing ASSET PLUS. Both the Social Worker and the NYJS practitioner must share information about the child and begin to plan together to address the safeguarding needs.

Where a child is accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act immediately prior to his/her placement in custody, the case will remain open to a Social Worker to enable an assessment to take place as to accommodation needs on release from custody. If the assessment indicates a need for accommodation after release, then the Social Worker will remain in close contact with the NYJS practitioner whilst the child is in custody attending sentence planning meetings as appropriate. Likewise, if the NYJS practitioner establishes there is a need for the child to be accommodated after release and/or is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm on leaving the establishment, the NYJS practitioner will immediately make a referral to Children’s Services via CADs for an assessment to commence.

Where it is identified that the child is at immediate risk of self-harm and/or suicide, the NYJS practitioner will request the Court Cells staff immediately open an ACCT Transport Warning Form. This form is carried by the staff who transport the young person to the secure establishment. This form will in turn trigger the ACCT process (involving intensive monitoring of the young person’s behaviour) when the child is admitted to the YOI.

Safeguarding the child throughout his or her placement is a fundamental responsibility of the Secure Estate and each establishment’s policy and procedure will be spelt out in detail in local procedures and documents. The landmark judgement of Justice Munby in 2002 makes clear that children in custody have the same rights and entitlements under the 1989 Children Act and human rights legislation as those children in any other setting. Fundamental to the list of rights and entitlements is the right to be kept safe. Furthermore, the Children Act 2004 places for the first time explicit responsibility for safeguarding and promoting welfare on providers of custody for children. The Act also insists on the involvement of secure establishments with their Local Safeguarding Boards.

Each secure establishment must have written policies and procedures spelling out how it will safeguard the child for the length of time he/she is in custody. These policies and procedures will cover the secure establishment’s procedure regarding the initial reception of the child, the investigation and resolution of bullying incidents and child protection concerns, the rewards and sanctions policy of the establishment, the management of challenging behaviour, healthcare and substance misuse procedures, complaints and advocacy processes and finally arrangements for allowing the child to have contact with his/her family and friends. The investigation of child protection incidents that take place within the secure institution is the responsibility of the relevant local authority within whose boundary the secure institution is located. The home authority of the child concerned is not the investigator in these circumstances (although the home authority’s YJS practitioner and Social Worker if involved must be consulted and must share information as required).

Every child subject to a Detention and Training Order, Section 91 Order or remand to Youth Detention Accommodation must have an allocated YJS practitioner within 1 working day of sentence. It is their responsibility to visit the young person at least monthly if not more if the level of risk so requires, maintain regular contact with the child’s parents/carers, attend all reviews and maintain regular communication with the secure establishment staff. Norfolk YJS holds detailed working procedures for NYJS practitioners regarding young people subject to Detention and Training Orders.

Where a Social Worker is involved, the NYJS practitioner needs to ensure that the Social Worker is appraised of the child’s progress in the secure establishment and any other relevant information (and vice versa). This appraisal will include the Social Worker receiving a copy of the relevant sentence planning documentation which records the outcome of each Sentence Planning Meeting. In essence the NYJS practitioner acts as a ‘bridge’ between the secure establishment, the child and the community from whence the child came and to where in most cases he/she will return. The knowledge the NYJS practitioner has, based on his/her ASSET PLUS assessment and his/her relationship with the child, is a very important safeguarding mechanism whilst the child is in custody.

Where a child is looked after by the Local Authority they will have an allocated Social Worker. It is the expectation that during the period of the custodial sentence the case will remain active to the same Social Worker. The NYJS practitioner will keep the Social Worker informed of developments whilst the child is in custody and vice versa. The Social Worker will also maintain direct contact with the child as the responsible parent. The Social Worker will be fully involved in the planning for the child’s release.

Every child placed in the Secure Estate should have a Keyworker (called a Personal Officer in the YOI) for the period he/she is in custody. This person’s role is to have a special concern for the child’s well-being and progress in custody and to make himself/herself available so that the child can discuss all issues of concern and any requests. The Keyworker has a special duty to keep in contact with the NYJS practitioner and also be the point of contact for the family and any outside agencies (including the Social Worker). It is vital the Keyworker alerts the NYJS practitioner, family and the Social Worker as appropriate to any safeguarding concern at the time of its initial presentation, whether this is related to self-harm, child protection, bullying or physical restraint incidents. Open communication is intrinsic to the safeguarding of the child. The role of Keyworker – and more generally his/her immediate colleagues – cannot be overestimated given that they are the primary carers for the 100 waking hours each week when the child is not in education.

All YOIs have a Sentence Planning Department which will be staffed by personnel seconded, usually from the local Youth Justice Team. They have an important role to play in ensuring the smooth running of the sentence planning process including ‘looked after children’ processes and maintaining good communication between the child, prison staff and the home Local Authority and Youth Justice Team. In addition YOIs have Children’s Services Practitioners who are seconded from the local Children’s Services Department. These members of staff have an important role to play in ensuring that the needs of vulnerable children in YOIs are highlighted, particularly children who have a care history or status.

Safeguarding the child is of equivalent importance to addressing the causes of the childs offending behaviour. This protocol is written in the light of the tragedies that have befallen children who have been harmed or in some cases have lost their lives because safeguarding procedures were not sufficiently robust. The key is open and timely communication about safeguarding issues between the child, the secure establishment staff, parents, Youth Justice Practitioner and the Social Worker where involved.

Norfolk Local Safeguarding Children Partnership and its constituent agencies affirm its commitment to safeguarding the welfare of children placed in the secure estate.