Placing Children in the Secure Estate: An Overview – Youth Justice Board (April 2022)

Summary: An overview of the secure estate in England and Wales.




Children under 18 who are sentenced to custody are sent to secure establishments for children. There are three type of secure establishment placements that are available for children under the age of 18.


Types of secure centre

  • young offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure children- homes


Young offender institutions:

  • are run by the Prison Service and private companies
  • are for children and young people aged 15 to 21 (people under 18 are held in different buildings)
  • house between 60 to 400 people, split into ‘wings’ of 30 to 60 people


Secure training centres:

  • are run by private companies
  • are for children aged up to 17
  • house between 50 and 80, split into units of 5 to 8 people
  • give 30 hours of education and training a week, following a school day timetable


Secure children- homes:

  • run by local councils
  • are for children aged 10 to 14
  • house between 8 and 40 people
  • give 30 hours of education and training a week, following a school day timetable


Contact details of secure estate establishments

For more information regarding children in custody including information about:

  • arriving at custody;
  • what custody is like for young people;
  • visiting young people in custody;
  • advice and support;
  • advocacy services and
  • organisations that can help


The role of the Youth Custody Service Placement and Casework Team
The Youth Custody Service (YCS) Placement and Casework Team is responsible for the placement of all children who are remanded into custody or given a custodial sentence by a court.

Their primary purpose is to place children in the establishment best able to ensure their safety and manage their individual needs and risk factors. The team has an important role in making the best use of resources and capacity available to children in secure settings.

If you work in a youth justice service you are responsible for notifying the YCS Placement and Casework Service, at the earliest possible stage, about children who may receive a custodial outcome, using the Custody sections of AssetPlus.  It is important that this information is received promptly to enable the secure setting to effectively safeguard the child


How to contact the Youth Custody Service Placements and Casework Team
Whenever a child receives a custodial outcome, the youth justice service must inform the Youth Custody Placement and Casework Team of all relevant information relating to that child and complete the Custody section of AssetPlus.

You may have a view as to the most appropriate type of placement for an individual child, which you should communicate, together with the reasons for that view.  The YCS placement officer will then identify the most suitable available placement for that child. The final decision on placement will be made by YCS Placement and Casework Team, but this will be after considering all available information and taking the view of the youth justice service into account.

Both agencies share the responsibility for ensuring the placement can maintain the child safety and wellbeing. If a youth justice service disagree with a placement decision, this should be escalated to the YCS Head of Placements and Casework.

Please read the placing young people in custody guide to find out more about this process.

The YCS Placement and Casework Team communicates all relevant information to the secure establishment and transport provider, to ensure that all staff involved in caring for children in custody are aware of their individual risks and needs.  If any documents are missing, the youth justice service will be alerted through the service- secure email address the next morning, detailing what is needed.  Once the outstanding information is received, the Placement Team will forward the missing information to the relevant establishment. Repeat instances of missing documentation from the same youth justice service will be escalated in line with YCS- policy.

When requested, placements can be reviewed to ensure that they remain appropriate. The Placemnt and Casework Team will liaise with establishments and youth justice service- staff to monitor children- progress, and where necessary manage the transfer process.  If the child is moved to another establishment, the youth justice service must notify the child parents or carers within 24 hours, and ensure any concerns are communicated to the receiving establishment and the Placement Team. Youth justice services must also notify relevant local authority staff including the social worker and education service within five days.

The YCS Placement and Casework Team will assist with the planning of transitions for children held in secure children- homes (SCHs) and secure training centres (STCs) who have been identified as requiring a transition to the adult estate due to their age and length of sentence.  Transition planning for those requiring a move into the adult estate usually commences at the age of 17 years and 6 months.

Please refer to the joint national protocol for transitions in England guidance.


The Release and Resettlement Team sit within the Placement and Casework Team and they have responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of the case work function on behalf of the Secretary of State. Its roles and responsibilities vary across secure settings, but in summary include:

  • issuing sentence calculations
  • decision applications for early, late and temporary release
  • preparing release documentation
  • setting and amending licence conditions


You may also find of interest – matters of concern, safeguarding concerns, allegations and complaints for children in custody – Youth Custody Service (April 2022).