VULNERABLE youngsters risk being sent to England because of an acute shortage of beds in Scotland’s secure accommodation network.
The Scotsman has learned that a lack of places means teenagers with behavioural difficulties may have to be placed away from their families in facilities south of the Border.
There are four independent secure units in Scotland, and a fifth run by Edinburgh city council, which care for those who need to be supervised for their safety and that of others.
According to figures published online yesterday by information service Secure Accommodation Network Scotland, there is currently just one available bed across the entire system, which has around 90 places in all. While the situation is known to change on a day-to-day basis, the lack of space is said to be giving cause for concern.
The charity Children 1st said the use of accommodation potentially hundreds of miles from a young person’s home would make the “frightening and stressful” experience of going into a unit all the more difficult.
Stays at the facilities, which provide educational and behavioural programmes, can last for a number of months.
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Children 1st chief executive Alison Todd said: “Going into a secure unit can be a frightening and stressful experience for a child. Removing them from their family and community can make it all the more difficult, both for them and for visitors who might give them support.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The average number of young people in secure care in 2012-13 was 78, a fall of 9 per cent compared with 2011-12, which is 13 per cent under our capacity limit of 90 in Scotland. We are working with providers to monitor capacity.”
A recent report by Edinburgh city council said its secure service at the Howdenhall and St Katharine’s facility had been at 95 per cent occupancy throughout 2013-14, with demands from other local authorities exceeding the number of available places.
It noted that the use of secure accommodation in the capital is “relatively high” when compared to other areas of the country, with a “significantly different” population, including a “disproportionate number of vulnerable females less than 15 years old”.
Four young people were placed in secure accommodation outwith the city in 2013-14, but were quickly returned to Edinburgh placements, the report said.
The council plans to reduce its number of secure beds from 12 to six using early intervention strategies.
A spokesman said: “The council has 12 secure beds and is the only local authority provider of secure accommodation in Scotland.”
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