As you probably know, children and young people live in secure children’s homes through two different paths:
- They are suspected of committing a crime, or they have committed a crime, OR
- They are in care and there are serious concerns about their safety.
PATH 1 (CRIME)
The plans made about you will be slightly different according to whether you have been convicted of a crime, or remanded to custody.
YOU ARE REMANDED
Every child who is remanded to prison automatically goes into the care of their local council. This is so they get extra protection. This includes having an independent reviewing officer to make sure you are looked after well.
If you were already in care before being remanded, your Care Plan will be changed to include a Detention Placement Plan.
If you weren’t already in care, a Detention Placement Plan will be agreed for you.
Your Detention Placement Plan must include very important information such as:
- How your welfare will be looked after every day by the people who work in your prison.
- Your contact with your parents and any other people who are important to you (or reasons why contact shouldn’t happen).
- How often your social worker will visit you, and how they will stay in touch between visits.
- If you have an independent visitor.
- How your physical health and your mental health will be looked after in prison.
- The dental care you will get while in prison.
- Arrangements for your education and training.
- Whether you have any special educational needs, and how these will be met if you do.
- How the prison will meet your religious needs, your language needs and your cultural needs (this might be linked to being a Romany or Gypsy young person for example).
- How the prison will support your skills in looking after yourself.
- The name of your independent reviewing officer.
- What will happen after you are no longer remanded.
AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN SENTENCED
Within 10 days of you being sentenced to custody, an initial planning meeting will be held. You, and your parents or carers, have the right to be involved in this important meeting.
Targets will be agreed for how your needs will be met during your time in prison, and after you leave. Everything that’s important to your safety, health and happiness should be discussed, especially these subjects:
- Your education, training and employment.
- Work around your offending (why it happened and what will help stop future offending).
- Where you will live when you leave prison.
- Meeting your health needs in prison (physical and mental health are equally important).
- Help with money, debts and benefits.
- Whether you need any help from social workers.
- Making sure your parents or carers are involved in making plans for you and supporting you.
- Working out if there are any risks to others, and how these should be dealt with.
Once everything is agreed, this will be your Sentence Plan. Your plan must be written in a way you understand (obvious, you’d think, but not everyone writes understandable plans!). You must sign it, to prove you understand and agree to it. Important: only ever sign something that you truly understand – if in doubt, ask for help.
Sentence plan review meetings
These should be held every three months while you are in prison.
Release preparation meeting
One month before you leave prison, you should have a release preparation meeting. Then two weeks before you leave, you will have your last release preparation meeting. These are very important meetings to agree where you will live, how you will get your 25 hours education or training a week and how your health needs will be met after you leave prison.
If there are concerns about you hurting yourself while you are in prison, a separate plan may be agreed about how to keep you safe. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you talk about your feelings and let people know when you are feeling very distressed and out of control (which is a common experience in prison). You have the right to get the help you need.
PATH 2 (CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR SAFETY)
If you are living in a secure children’s home because of concerns about your safety, you must be in care.
Being in care you’ll probably be no stranger to written plans!
We love written plans because they show what rights you have, and how these rights will be respected.
Below we give a description of each of the main plans children in care often have, and the important rights they give you.
- Care Plan.
- Education, Health and Care Plan.
- Pathway Plan.
Secure Accommodation Review
Before we get onto your plans, just a word about your Secure Accommodation Review. When you are living in a secure children’s home, your council must ask three people to check whether you still need to be locked up. It is against the law for you to be in secure accommodation when you are no longer at serious risk.
One of these three people reviewing whether you need to stay in a secure children’s home must be completely separate from your council. The three people must carry out their first review within one month of you entering secure accommodation, and then every three months after that. They must do their best to find out and take into account your wishes and feelings, as well as the wishes and feelings of your parents and carers.
Your Care Plan is your most important plan. It is made up of lots of smaller but very important plans.
Your Care Plan is a legal document that says how people should work together to make sure you get your rights.
It should give you a good sense of security because changes to how you are being looked after can only be made after your care has been carefully looked at (unless this would be impossible).
The law says your Care Plan must say:
- What the long-term plan for your childhood is (you may hear people calling this your ‘permanence plan’). This part of your Care Plan is aimed at making sure you can have stability in your life, to help you feel loved, happy and secure. This is your right like any other child.
- How your health needs will be looked after (you may hear people calling this your Health Plan).
- How your education and training needs will be looked after (you may hear people calling this your Personal Education Plan).
- How your needs linked to your feelings and behaviour will be met.
- How your needs linked to your religion, racial origin and background will be met. This includes your language and culture.
- How your needs linked to your family, friends and other relationships will be met.
- How your needs linked to how you feel and manage in social situations will be met.
- How your needs linked to your skills looking after yourself will be met.
- How all of your needs will be met where you live (your Placement Plan).
- The name of your independent reviewing officer.
- Your thoughts and feelings about all parts of your Care Plan and your Placement Plan, and your thoughts and feelings about any changes that may be made. (The thoughts and feelings of others, for example your parents, will also be included).
If your council is not doing what your Care Plan says, the law says it must tell your independent reviewing officer. Your independent reviewing officer has the legal power to get help for you to make sure your rights are protected. Excellent!
Education, Health and Care Plan
If you have special educational needs, your council might have agreed a plan with you and your parents. This is called your Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan for short). Once your Plan has been agreed, the council is under a legal duty to make sure the promises in the Plan about are put into practice. Brilliant!
You must have a Pathway Plan if you are at least 16 and:
- Since you were aged 14 you have been in care for at least 13 weeks (in one go or in separate weeks that add up), OR
- Since you were aged 14 you have spent at least 13 weeks (in one go or in separate weeks that add up) in hospital or in a place where you were locked up.
Your Pathway Plan must include:
- The name of your Personal Adviser. This is a person who will offer you advice and help about all aspects of growing up.
- Who will support you, and how you will be supported.
- Where you will live when you are no longer in a children’s home.
- Your education and training plans once you leave your children’s home.
- How your council will help you get into employment or training.
- The support you’ll get to help you with your family relationships and friendships.
- The support you’ll get to help you live independently.
- The financial help you’ll get to cover your housing and other costs like food.
- Your health needs, and how these will be met when you no longer live at your children’s home.
- Your council’s backup plans in case parts of this Plan don’t work out for any reason.
Reviewing your care, and how you are doing
As you probably know, there are important checks on your care and how you are doing. This is called a review. There is usually a meeting as part of this checking process. Your independent reviewing officer is in charge of your review.