Secure Accommodation Orders are a type of court order imposed by the Court when it is believed a young person has a history of running away and is likely to run away from any other form of accommodation and suffer harm, or the young person poses a risk of serious harm to themselves or to others. With this, the Local Authority has permission to keep the young person in secure accommodation for a period defined by the order.
A secure accommodation order restricts the liberty of a person, so it is considered a last resort where no other alternative is available. It should be made for the minimum period necessary and for no longer than 3 months initially, and for 6 months upon further application.
It is also possible for the Local Authority to place a young person under secure accommodation without a secure accommodation order for a period of up to 72 hours in an emergency.
The law surrounding Secure Accommodation Orders is complex, and we highly recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible. Reeds Family Law team have experience in advising on all aspects of secure accommodation. We will ensure that the Local Authority fulfils any legal or statutory obligations to ensure that the child remains with the family as far is possible.
A number of our solicitors are members of the Law Society’s Children Panel. We can represent children through their Guardians, and parents (subject to the availability of legal aid, in any aspect of this specialist area of law. If the Local Authority has made an application for a Secure Accommodation Order, get in contact with us to discuss your options.
Frequently Asked Questions for Secure Accommodation Order Solicitors
What is Secure Accommodation?
Secure Accommodation is defined as any accommodation for which the purpose is to deprive a young person of their liberty. Under secure accommodation, a detained young person is not free to leave and must remain there for the duration that a secure accommodation order imposes.
What is a Secure Accommodation Order?
A Secure Accommodation Order allows a Local Authority permission (from the court) to place a child or young person in specialist Secure Accommodation. These orders are made under the Section 25 of the Children Act 1985.
Who Can Make such an Order?
Only the Court can make a Secure Accommodation Order upon receiving an application from the Local Authority.
What should I do if I receive an application for a secure accommodation order?
We advise seeking legal assistance immediately. A specialist secure accommodation order solicitor can advise you of your options, assess whether you are eligible for public legal aid funding, and provide representations on your behalf.
A solicitor can ensure that the correct process and procedures are followed by anyone involved (including the local authority) to ensure that the young person who will be subject to the order is considered at all stages.
Obtaining legal advice at an early stage can be crucial. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Can the Court Make a Secure Accommodation Order?
The court can only make a Secure Accommodation Order when:
- The young person has a history of ‘absconding’ (running away) and there is risk that they would run away if they were not placed in secure accommodation. This is usually only the case if, by running away, the young person would be likely to suffer significant harm.
- If the young person was not detained in secure accommodation, they would likely cause harm to themselves or others.
Note that the common argument is determining whether there is significant risk of harm to themselves or to others. The purpose of Secure Accommodation Orders is to protect either the young person, or to protect others from them.
Where the local authority believes there is immediate risk, a young person can be kept in secure accommodation for up to 72-hours without a court order. At the end of this period, the Local Authority must obtain a Court Order or release the young person.
Who Can be Placed Under a Secure Accommodation Order?
Anyone under the age of 18 can be placed in Secure Accommodation through a court order, as long as:
- The child is “looked after” by the Local Authority. A child will be considered ‘looked after’ if they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, or they are in Local Authority care under a care order.
- If the young person is under the age of 13, the Local Authority must apply for the approval of the Secretary of State.
How Long Does a Secure Accommodation Order Last?
How long a Secure Accommodation Order can last will depend on whether it is the first application, or a subsequent one. A Court may approve an order for a young person to be kept in secure accommodation for a maximum:
- 3 months – on the first application to the court
- 6 months – on subsequent applications.
If the person was placed into secure accommodation without a court order, i.e. under the ’72-hour rule’, this does not count towards the time period imposed by the order.
How often should a young person in secure accommodation be reviewed?
A Secure Accommodation Order allows the local authority to keep the young person in secure accommodation, but it does not require them to. This means that someone in secure accommodation should be regularly reviewed to monitor any changes in their situation.
When a young person has been in secure accommodation for a month, an independent review panel should review the circumstances of the young person and decide if they need to be kept further. After this, reviews must be completed at least every three months.
Can a Young Person have Contact with Family and Friends Whilst in Secure Accommodation?
For a young person in secure accommodation contact from friends and family can provide important support and can often improve rehabilitation after the detained period. When under Secure Accommodation, the Local Authority must allow ‘reasonable contact’ between a parent and the young person in care.
Usually, a Local Authority will discuss with parents or legal guardians how often content should take place. In-person visits to a young person can be difficult if the secure accommodation is far from the home or is difficult to get to. If this happens, then the Local Authority should be able to provide assistance or financial support to help parents or legal guardians continue contact.
If there are concerns about the amount of contact allowed or the provisions of the Local Authority to assist family members to visit, then our solicitors can provide advise and guidance. We can help you understand your legal rights, guide you in what action you can take and, if appropriate, help you apply for a Contact Court Order.
Can a Young Person be Put in Secure Accommodation without an Order?
Yes, a young person can be put into secure accommodation without a court order. This can be done for up to a total of 72 hours in any period of 28 consecutive days. Beyond these 72 hours a court order must be obtained. This is sometimes referred to as the 72-hour rule.
If the child is under the age of 13, the approval of the Secretary of State must be given to place them under the 72-hour rule.
This is detailed in The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991.
Is Legal Aid Available in defending against Secure Accommodation Orders?
If you are a parent or someone who holds parental or guardianship responsibility, you will be entitled to Legal Aid to cover the costs of legal representation if care proceedings are ongoing. Reeds Solicitors can help advise on whether legal aid is available depending on the type of application or representation you require.