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His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021

Read about the arrangements following The Duke of Edinburgh’s death


1. This paper sets out the Welsh Government’s vision for the future of the Secure Estate for Welsh children who have received a custodial sentence, are on remand or who cannot be bailed after arrest. This paper and the Ministerial discussion will inform continued engagement within Welsh Government, with the Ministry of Justice and with Partners across Wales on the future strategy for, and delivery of the Secure Estate, for Welsh children.

2. This takes forward one of the commitments in the Youth Justice Blueprint which was published jointly by the Welsh Government and Ministry of Justice in May 2019 and is also included in the First Minister’s Continuity plan. The Blueprint takes a whole-system approach and seeks to create a youth justice system which treats children with fairness and respect, and helps them to make positive changes. The specific custody commitment in the Blueprint is to explore options for:

  • All Welsh-resident children being placed in secure accommodation in Wales and near to their home communities. This will include reciprocal arrangements with England so that cross-border arrangements are in place for individual cases on an exceptional basis. 
  • Trauma-informed secure provision, drawing on best practice in multi-agency working to develop a centre of excellence with delivery of mental health, health care education and training.

3. The Rights of Children and Young Person (Wales) Measure 2011 places a duty on Ministers to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). All rights will be applied in particular Article 37:

  1. No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
  2. Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances.


4. Currently Welsh children in the Secure Estate are placed (the decision on where a child is placed is made by the Youth Custody Services (YCS) and is a reserved process) in HM Prison Parc Youth Offenders’ Institution (YOI) in Parc Prison in Bridgend, Hillside Secure Children’s Home (SCH) in Neath Port Talbot or in provision in England. There have been long-standing concerns about placing Welsh children away from their home area, with questions as to whether their rights and educational, cultural and linguistic needs are fully met in establishments in England. There is no reasonably distanced custodial provision within Wales for children from North Wales and no female provision in Wales.

5. Whilst the UK government retains responsibility for justice and policing, including the provision of the Secure Estate for adults and children in Wales, all services relating to the wellbeing of children are the responsibility of Welsh Government. This includes a number of policy areas involved in the delivery of, and follow on from, the Secure Estate for children, such as health, education, housing and social services. At Parc YOI, education and healthcare is commissioned by G4S whilst at Hillside education is provided through an arrangement with a local school and healthcare by the local health board. We would want to influence a change to this approach and have provision that is driven by Welsh Government policy.

6. Children in the Secure Estate are often the most vulnerable in society and require the most support. Many of these children have unmet needs and have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), or been victims of crime themselves.

What do we want for Welsh children?

7. In the last 10 years there has been a significant decrease in the number of children in the Secure Estate. For 2018/19, the average number of Welsh children in the Secure Estate was 22 compared to an average of 164 in 2008/9 (Youth Custody Data, 2020). This is credit to the Youth Offending Teams (Youth Offending teams work with children and young people to help prevent reoffending and incarceration) across Wales which deliver diversionary and preventative programmes, and the system becoming more diversionary for example through initiatives aimed at increasing police discretion to deal with low-level offences.

8. It is well documented that children who enter the criminal justice system are at an increased risk of becoming adult offenders, resulting in intergenerational cycles of offending. The Prisoner ACE Survey (2019) of the male offender population in Wales found that 45.9% of the 468 adults surveyed had served a sentence in a YOI, and adult prisoners with four or more ACEs were 4.2 times more likely to have experienced YOI incarceration than those with no ACEs (Ford, K et al. Understanding the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a male offender population in Wales: The Prisoner ACE Survey. Public Health Wales and Bangor University). The high prevalence of ACEs in those with YOI incarceration underlines the need for bespoke Welsh provision, as well as early intervention and diversion. The latter is also being addressed by the Blueprint with the aim of preventing initial offending and stop reoffending in justice-involved youth.

9. The ambition is for Wales to become a nation that no longer requires the use of the Secure Estate for children. However, in the medium term there is recognition that there will be a small cohort of children who will continue to require secure provision. The vision for these children is to have the best opportunity to access all the services required for them to leave custody and resettle and fulfil their potential. Time spent in the Secure Estate should be viewed as a teachable opportunity in an environment designed to inspire young people that there can be a different way of living.

10. Following consultation with Officials from the policy areas involved, Keith Towler and the Wales Youth Justice Advisory Panel (WYJAP is a strategic reference group, chaired by Keith Taylor, former CCfW), Youth Justice Board Cymru, and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales (CCfW), the principles proposed to deliver consistent services for all Welsh children in the Secure Estate are:

  1. Children have full access to their rights under the UNCRC. 
  2. Children experience a child-first trauma informed approach across the system which delivers a therapeutic secure care model tailored to their needs and wellbeing.
  3. Children are safe and accommodated in smaller homes.
  4. Children are placed in Wales and remain connected to their families and communities with opportunities to strengthen relationships and make a positive contribution (there may be cases where this is not appropriate for the child).
  5. Children have access to the Welsh curriculum and receive an education which is able to meet their linguistic, cultural and developmental needs. 
  6. Children’s needs are met by having appropriate wraparound support and access to the services they need, which continues after the child leaves supporting their return to the community.
  7. Children have access to specialist support from trained professionals who understand the impact of childhood adversity and trauma.
  8. Children are involved in decision making processes.

11. We need to build a system that is flexible, and adapts to the needs of each child. Secure provision should aim to always have capacity for the children who need it.

The future of Welfare Secure

12. Hillside SCH provides accommodation to both children from the youth justice system and children with welfare needs. It is the only residential facility for children with welfare needs in Wales and they are treated as 'Looked After' in line with Section 119 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, s119). Hillside is an integral part of children's social services provision in Wales providing social care, health, education and therapeutic support to its residents. The provision of therapeutic services to children at the home is critical to successfully transitioning children out of the secure environment.

13. We would want to provide the same level of support and services to both groups of children and some services could overlap as both cohorts of children require similar support. There are separate plans within Social Services via the Integrated Care Fund (ICF) for Regional Partnership Boards (RPBs), Officials are offering a one-year pump prime fund to support the regional provision of safe accommodation for children with complex needs. £2 million is being centrally held for an Expressions of Interest process that will be awarded to bids centred on providing the right care and level of jointly commissioned and provided support for these children, in an environment appropriate for their needs. The aim of this approach is to de-escalate the need for secure provision by providing a holistic model of therapeutic care which responds to the needs of each child. Powys RPB is in the process of developing such facilities and there are similar projects being initiated elsewhere. Having these facilities available would mean the future of welfare secure could be reconsidered, including the use of smaller units across Wales. We must take the learning from the plans for regional provision for Looked After children and seek to influence the UK government and create the same provision for children in the Secure Estate.


14. Cabinet is asked to commit to the principles in paragraph 10, working together to develop gold standard services to support some of our most vulnerable children.

15. The delivery and commissioning of services within the Secure Estate will require a multi-agency approach driven by Welsh Government policy. For certain ministers we have specific asks, these have been shared with officials from each portfolio area.

Portfolio Ask Reasoning
  • Access to Curriculum Cymraeg
  • Access to support for Additional Learning Needs (ALN)
Children need access to education opportunities during and after the Secure Estate. To facilitate a seamless transition Welsh children will be best served by consistent access to Curriculum Cymraeg. Evidence suggests that a large number of children who enter the youth justice system have ALN Access to bespoke support will be vital to their success.
  • Access to general health services
  • Access to bespoke services
Local health boards are responsible for the provision of general and specialist health services.
Mental health
  • Support for mental health needs
  • Access to a therapeutic trauma informed approach
Many of the children will be suffering from mental health issues and will require support. Many of the children have experienced ACEs and will need support provided through a therapeutic trauma-informed approach.
Housing/Local Government
  • Access to individualised and flexible housing related support
  • The same access to housing and homelessness services as other vulnerable groups of children
Some children leaving the Secure Estate will need access to support to find and retain accommodation. Some of this will be from reserved provision through Youth Offending Services. However some will fall within Welsh Government competency including access to appropriate accommodation and individual housing related support which is provided by local authorities as a result of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and the Housing Support Grant respectively.
  • Access to skills training and employment opportunities
Providing access to appropriate employability opportunities to ensure children have alternatives as they reintegrate back into their communities.
Social Services
  • Access to the same level of support as Looked After children
We will work together to ensure provision aligns with the plans for Looked After children, as discussed in paragraph 13.

Next steps: Cabinet consideration

16. If Cabinet agrees with and commits to the principles and asks outlined in this paper the following steps are proposed for Cabinet agreement:

  • The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip writes to Lucy Frazer QC, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice setting out the Welsh Government’s vision and asks.
  • Officials across Welsh Government progress this work through the mechanisms set up to deliver the Youth Justice Blueprint. Internally this will be through the Blueprint Deputy Directors Group and externally the Blueprint Custody workstream, part of the overall Blueprint governance structure.

17. There is a need to future-proof any provision given the longer term aim set out in the Commission on Justice Report that youth justice policy should be determined and delivered in Wales (Commission on Justice in Wales, 2019: Justice in Wales for the people of Wales).

Communications and publication

18. This paper can be published 6 weeks after the Cabinet meeting. A participation plan to engage with children is being developed and we will work with the CCfW.

Cabinet is asked to:

  • agree to the principles set out in paragraph 10
  • agree to the Ministerial portfolio commitments in paragraph 15
  • agree that an inter-ministerial letter is sent setting out the principles

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
January 2020

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