Judge concerned at ‘chronic’ shortage of secure accommodation for teenagers

A family court judge based in Wales has raised concern about a “chronic” shortage of specialist secure accommodation for teenagers.

Judge Gareth Jones said he had recently analysed a case involving a 15-year-old girl at a family court hearing in Prestatyn.

He said the girl had a “number of difficulties” and needed to be in a secure unit where her behaviour could be managed.

But he said a suitable unit could not be found for a “significant” period of time.

The judge said a place was eventually found but in a unit which was a “considerable” distance from the girl’s home.

He said relatives and social workers had to travel a long way to see her.

Judge Jones has raised concern in a written ruling on the girl’s case.

He said he had analysed issues at a private hearing but had published a ruling because he wanted to draw attention to the “very significant problems” which had arisen.

“Regrettably, the shortage of suitable places has now become chronic,” he said.

“The situation has become a very serious one.

“There is a need for this to be addressed by the administrative authorities who have responsibility for this area of policy, so that more unit places are made available and are made available within the locality of the young person concerned.”

He added: “The purpose of providing this judgment to the public more widely is to draw attention to this particular area, where deficiencies have become apparent and where remedial action is very urgently called for.”

Judge Jones is the latest in a series of family court judges to raise concern about a shortage of secure accommodation places for teenagers in England and Wales.

The most senior family court judge in England and Wales raised concern nearly two years ago.

Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said in October 2016 that the problem had led to social services bosses at English councils trying to place children in secure accommodation units in Scotland.

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