Children in Secure Accommodation

A Gendered Exploration of Locked Institutional Care for Children in Trouble

Secure accommodation continues to be a controversial facility for children in the care and criminal justice systems. Children are placed in secure accommodation for a wide range of reasons, and include those who have run away from home or care as well as those who have committed serious crimes. Teresa O'Neill argues that the ideological confusion between welfare and justice leads to contradictions in policy and practice. She suggests that the fact that most of the boys - who form the majority of children in secure accommodation - are admitted through the criminal justice system while most of the girls are admitted through the welfare system make this a gendered issue.

The author explores the circumstances and experiences of children in secure accommodation through an examination of their own stories and through the accounts of their social workers and the staff working at the secure units. From these narratives she draws conclusions on the meaning of being in a secure unit, the effectiveness of this type of provision in meeting the needs and improving the life chances of these, and the complexities inherent in the role and practice of secure accommodation. What emerges has significant implications for policy, planning and practice with children in trouble.
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