Stop children unnecessarily being put in secure accommodation

13th February 2009 at 00:00

Officials at Scotland's biggest local authority want to cut funding for secure accommodation.

Sheena Morrison, Glasgow City Council's social care executive director, is concerned about the rising number of children put in secure units unnecessarily. Only five of the last 63 people remanded into secure accommodation - at nearly Pounds 5,000 each a week - were subsequently given a prison sentence.

She believes solutions for these youngsters should be found in their own communities, instead of sending them to units as far away as Aberdeenshire, with no evidence of any positive benefits. Otherwise, the bill facing the city council for secure accommodation this financial year is Pounds 3.8 million.

A report to the education and social work policy development and scrutiny committee last week made clear that "the money used to fund remand placements could be better used to support children and their families within their communities".

Officials are concerned, however, that the decision to send a child to secure accommodation is often not in their hands, and they therefore have minimal control over costs which have been rising for four years.

Children are admitted to secure accommodation in three ways: through the authorisation of the chief social work officer, following a children's hearing, or as a result of a sheriff court decision. The council has no say over the latter two routes, and therefore no control over the number of children or costs involved.

The committee was only asked to note the report's observations, rather than approving any action.

Meanwhile, a separate report revealed plans to increase the number of residential places for looked-after children in council-run centres from 110 to 130.

David Crawford, executive director of social care, said substantial savings could be achieved by reducing the number of children farmed out to other authorities. His report said factors such as the credit crunch and an increase in looked-after and accommodated children had put pressure on children's services during the past two years.

A report to Glasgow councillors late last year argued that the spiralling costs of sending children to residential schools in other areas was as big a threat to the authority's financial stability as rising fuel and energy costs. They were identified as among the chief reasons why the council's revenue budget was ballooning into an overspend.

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