CHAPTER 8: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXPERIENCES OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO FORMED THE ALTERNATIVE SAMPLE
8.1.1. As noted in chapter one, the role of the alternative sample changed in the course of the study. The original intention had been that its inclusion would facilitate direct comparison with young people admitted to secure accommodation, so that the respective benefits of a secure and alternative route might be identified, both in financial and welfare terms. For reasons explained in chapter one, this kind of quasi- experimental comparison proved not to be feasible or appropriate. However including the alternative sample remains useful as it offers illustrations of parallel routes through services taken by young people who came close to being admitted to secure accommodation, but managed to be sustained in an open residential or community based setting. This chapter describes the young people, their journeys and the role of non secure services in supporting them.
8.1.2 Twenty-three young people were recruited from three main sources: projects offering intensive support to young people at risk of being placed in secure accommodation or residential school; residential schools; the survey of all young people made subject to secure authorisation between 1 st July and 31 st December 2003. Recruitment continued for 2 _ years and at different points targeted several major voluntary organisations offering 'alternatives to secure accommodation' and all residential schools.
8.1.3 Criteria for inclusion were that the young person had been formally considered for secure authorisation, but subsequently sustained in an open residential or community setting for at least six months.
8.1.4 Information was obtained retrospectively in one interview with a project worker, residential key worker or social worker. Where appropriate consents had been obtained, background information was also obtained from social work records.
2. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE
Age and Gender
8.2.1 The age range in the alternative sample, at the point when they had been considered for admission, was 10-15. Whilst girls were over represented in the secure sample, they were in the minority in the alternative sample. This in part reflects that most of the sample was recruited through residential schools and projects working with young people involved in offending, both of which cater primarily for boys. Details of age and gender are outlined in Table 11.
Table 11: Age when first considered for secure accommodation by gender
Age when first 12 considered for secure authorisation
8.2.2 As with the secure sample, the main carer for most young people was a single mother. Details are outlined in Table 12:
Table 12: Main Carers for Young People in the Alternative Sample
Local authority has parental rights
No main carer
8.2.3 Four young people, two girls and two boys, had experienced the death of one parent.
8.2.4 The families of fourteen young people (60%) had first been known to social work services when the young person was aged 10 or younger. Length of social work involvement ranged from less than a year to 11 years, with half having been in touch with social work services for five years or more. A third of the families were affected by parental drug or alcohol misuse and needed additional support with parenting. Family violence was mentioned in relation to six of the families.
8.2.5 For two girls and one boy the difficulties which resulted in consideration for secure accommodation had started at the ages of 8-10. The remainder had been between 11 and 15 years old when their problems began. For eight young people, the onset of difficulties had started at age 12-13, so this was the most common age at which problems had first been identified.
8.2.6 All but three of the young people had been accommodated at some point in their life. Time spent in care had been: under 2 years (9); 2-5 years (7); 5 years or more (4) 13.
8.2.7 The number of previous placements ranged from 1-7, with seven young people having been in three placements or more. Eleven had had at least one placement in a residential unit, nine had been in at least one foster placement and five had been in at least one residential school.
8.2.8 In terms of these aspects of their background, there were few notable differences between the young people in the alternative sample and those who had been admitted to secure accommodation.
3. THE YEAR PRIOR TO CONSIDERATION FOR SECURE PLACEMENT
8.3.1 At the time when they were considered for secure accommodation, nine young people were living in a children's unit, five were in a residential school and nine were living at home. In order to mirror the pathways approach developed in relation to young people admitted to secure accommodation, the young people were grouped according to their placement when considered for secure, then patterns of routes through services in the previous year were identified for each group.
Pathway 1 : Young People in a Residential Unit ( n=9)
8.3.2 Of these nine young people five were boys and four girls. Three were younger than fourteen years old and six aged 14+. They came from four local authorities, but seven were from the two main cities.
8.3.3 In the previous year, three had spent at least three months at home prior to being placed in residential accommodation. Two had been in foster care and one in close support before moving to the unit, but none had spent time in a residential school or secure accommodation. Three had been in the same unit for six months and two for the entire year.
8.3.4 In terms of education, six young people were in mainstream education and the remainder in a form of specialist provision. However only three were attending regularly at the point when they were considered for secure placement. In relation to community supports, all but two had some form of additional help. The range of services offered were similar to those made available to young people in secure accommodation, that is primarily offering intensive social support and help related to offending or addictions. Only two had been referred to a team offering mental health support. Reluctance to engage with at least one service was mentioned in relation to six of the nine young people.
Pathway 2: Young people in a residential school (n=5)
8.3.5 This small group included four boys and one girl. Two were aged 13 and three were aged 14 -15.
8.3.6 One had been resident in the school for the entire year, one had been there for only a month, having spent the rest of the year at home, and the remaining three had divided the year between a residential unit and residential school.
8.3.7 Education was provided within the school and four young people had been referred to more than one additional community resource, which specifically catered for young people at risk of being admitted to secure accommodation.
Pathway 3: Young people at home (n=9)
8.3.8 Of the nine young people living at home, two were 15 year old girls and seven were boys. Three of the boys were aged 13 or younger.
8.3.9 Only two of them had spent any part of the previous year in a care placement.
8.3.10 In terms of education, four were still on the roll of a mainstream school, with two receiving additional support within the school. The remainder had a place in specialist educational provision, either in a day centre or as a day pupil in a residential school. However only two were attending regularly when considered for secure placement. Two young people had not been offered any social supports in addition to the statutory social worker, but for some others a quite intensive package had been put in place, typically involving intensive community-based support and contact with a specialist addiction service.
REASONS FOR BEING CONSIDERED FOR SECURE ACCOMMODATION
8.3.10 Young people were being considered for secure accommodation because of behaviours similar to those which had promoted the admission of those in the secure sample. That is they were placing themselves or others at risk and offending. Some of the behaviour involved a high level of risk, for example alcohol and/or solvent misuse, joy-riding, playing 'chicken' on railway lines, gang fighting and engaging in activities involving potential sexual exploitation. However compared with those in the secure sample, a far lower proportion were running away ( 32% compared with 73%). Another difference was that offending and creating trouble in the community was a more prevalent issue among this sample than for most young people who had been admitted. As with the young people in secure accommodation, school and family, difficulties were usually problematic too, but for some the situation was less volatile than was typically the case for young people who had been admitted.
8.3.11 Formal reasons for consideration for secure accommodation are listed in Table 13:
Table 13: Reasons for young people being considered for secure accommodation
Reasons for Admission
Danger to self
Likely to abscond
Danger to others
Outwith the control of current carer
REASONS WHY YOUNG PEOPLE WERE NOT ADMITTED TO SECURE ACCOMMODATION
8.3.12 The most common reason why the young person had not been admitted to secure accommodation was that no place had been available. This reason was given in relation to 11 young people. In addition, the risk in relation to one young woman was thought to have reduced by the time a place became available. Thus twelve young people, over half the sample, would have been admitted, if a place had been available on the day that the secure authorisation was made. Ten of the young people stayed in the placement they were currently living in, four in a residential school, four at home and two in a residential unit. The remaining two either moved home from their current placement or moved into a residential unit.
8.3.13 One young person was considered by social work managers not to meet the secure criteria and another's appeal against secure authorisation was upheld by the sheriff court.
8.3.14 The remaining nine young people avoided secure placement because an alternative package was put together to support them. Six of the nine moved to a new placement, either a residential school, close support or a residential unit. The remaining three stayed at home. Most of these were not made subject to secure authorisation because the alternative arrangements had been put in place to avoid this.
4. KEY ELEMENTS OF THE SERVICE OFFERED BY THE ALTERNATIVE SERVICES.
8.4.1 A wide range of services were drawn on to keep young people in the community, but three main types of service predominated: intensive community based support, offending based projects and residential units or schools.
8.4.2 Includem staff were working with a third of the young people, so their service merits a brief description. Its key characteristics were that staff had frequent contact with the young person, often daily, were available out of usual core hours, and in most instances worked with the whole family, rather than just the young person. They typically engaged in a mix of structured activities which encouraged young people to develop more understanding of their life situation and behaviour and introduced the young person to leisure activities and sport. They were also available to offer advice and support to parents and sometimes took the whole family on outings to encourage positive, enjoyable interaction among them. Crucially the worker got to know the young person and family very well, so had a good idea of what the risks and strengths in each family were. This level of understanding, together with a capacity to diffuse family crises before they became out of control, enabled them to sustain some very volatile situations. In addition they worked with other local agencies such as police and schools to create the best possible package for young people, but also to help diffuse local antagonism towards young people who were viewed as prolific offenders.
8.4.3 In some instances the Includem staff took the view that an admission to secure accommodation would achieve very little for the young person because their problems could not be dealt with in isolation from what was going on in the rest of the family. This strong emphasis on viewing and working with the young person in his or her family context is quite different from the emphasis on focusing on the young person as an individual within the secure setting. Correspondingly, whilst the Includem input aimed to support families in ways which would enhance their lives as far as possible, staff also recognised that their usual role was to enable very stressed and burdened families to cope rather than effect significant change.
8.4.4 Projects focusing on offending also engaged with parents where appropriate, though their focus was more directly on the young person and his or her offending and associated difficulties. It was often because structured work on offending could be offered that a children's hearing had agreed to a young person remaining at home. However the young person was viewed holistically and supported with a range of issues including relationships with family members, drug and alcohol use and preparation for work. Ideally the projects offered the kind of programme which might be offered in secure accommodation, but in an open setting. In some instances, the risk of going to secure accommodation had been enough to encourage initially reluctant young people to engage.
8.4.5 Residential units and schools were also in the forefront of sustaining young people in the community. Sometimes additional support for the young person from a community support project had helped ease the situation, but where young people had been sustained in an open setting, staff had usually stayed with a fraught situation until it improved. In some instances a number of difficulties continued, but the crisis element had subsided and some young people had become much more settled.
5. PATHWAYS THROUGH SERVICES IN THE YEAR FOLLOWING BEING CONSIDERED FOR SECURE ACCOMMODATION
Living situation following consideration for secure placement
8.5.1 Immediately following being considered for a secure placement, the living situations of the 23 young people in the alternative sample were as follows:
Remaining at home
Recently moved home or to live with another relative
Remaining in a residential school
Recently moved to a residential school or close support
Remaining in a residential unit
Recently moved to a residential unit
8.5.2 Thus 14 were still in the same placement: seven remained at home, four in a residential school and three in a residential unit. Of the nine who moved, five transferred to a more restricted environment i.e. from a residential unit to close support (2) or residential school (2) and from home to a residential school (1). One young person moved from a residential school to a unit and one from a unit to live with a relative. One young person who had been at home moved to live with another relative.
8.5.3 Moves made within this admittedly small sample lend support to the view that developing existing supports in the community, sustaining existing residential placements and moving to more structured and resource intensive residential care are the key ways of avoiding admission to secure placement.
Pathways in the year following consideration for secure placement
Young people who stayed or moved home ( n=9)
8.5.4 Six boys and three girls were in this subgroup. Two boys were under the age of 14, but the remainder were aged fourteen or older.
8.5.5 Five of the young people who stayed or returned home after the residential placement remained at home for all of the following year and one moved to live with a relative. Three moved into residential care, two to a residential school and one (part-time) to a children's unit. One young man was admitted to a Young Offenders Institution in the course of the year. None were admitted to secure accommodation, close support or foster care.
8.5.6 All of the young people received specialist education, though two still attended mainstream school with additional supports. All had at least one form of community support and three were in contact with a total of five resources, including intensive community-based support.
Young people who remained in or recently moved to a residential school or close support (n=9)
8.5.7 Of the nine young people in this sub-group seven were boys and two girls. Five were under the age of 14 and four aged 14 or older.
8.5.8 Of the four boys who remained in residential, two had stayed there for all of the following year and one for 10 months. Only one of the four had been admitted to secure accommodation and had remained there for eight months.
8.5.9 There had also been reasonable stability for the three young people who moved into residential school after being considered for secure accommodation. Two had remained for the entire year and one had moved on to supported accommodation after 10 months in the school. Both young people who moved into close support had also stayed there for the whole year.
8.5.10 One of the young people admitted to close support still attended mainstream school, but all of the others in this sub-group received specialist education.
8.5.11 Each person also received at least one community-based support and one young person was in contact with five. Relevant services included intensive support ( i.e. daily contact), support towards independent living and a range of addiction services.
Young people who remained in or moved to a residential unit (n=5)
8.5.12 Five young people, three male and two female and all but one aged 14 or older had remained in or moved to a residential unit after being considered for admission to secure accommodation.
8.5.13 All five had remained in residential care for the following 12 months, but only one had stayed in the same unit. Three had moved to a second unit and one had had two subsequent placements. Two young people had moved to residential school and one to supported accommodation. None had moved into secure accommodation, close support or foster care.
8.5.14 None of the four were in mainstream school and three were moving on to college. In terms of community supports, a high number (2-5) and wide range were offered. As with other groups, these included support towards independent living, help with crises as they arose on a day to day basis and addiction services.
8.5.15 At the time the research interviews were carried out, the young person had been engaging with the supports put in place after consideration for secure admission for at least six months. For some young people the possibility of being admitted to secure accommodation remained a live issue because the behaviours which caused concern continued to some extent. For some, key workers thought that wanting to avoid secure accommodation helped moderate their behaviour and keep them engaged with services.
6. SUMMARY POINTS
8.6.1 In terms of their family background and previous history, the young people in the alternative sample were similar to those who formed the secure sample.
8.6.2 The young people had been considered for secure placement for reasons similar to those which had resulted in an admission for those in the secure sample. However offending was more of an issue for young people in the alternative sample and fewer of them were absconding. Most had remained engaged with at least one support service.
8.6.3 Half of the sample had not been admitted to secure accommodation because no bed was available. Yet all of them had remained in an open setting for at least six months thereafter, usually without moving to live somewhere else. A move of placement was more likely when a package had been put together as a positive option to avoid admission to secure accommodation.
8.6.4 Three main types of service had continued to support young people in the community: intensive community based support; projects focusing on offending and residential units and schools. Each offered a distinctive type of support, sometimes in collaboration.
8.6.5 Though in many instances some level of difficulty continued, most young people had reasonable continuity and stability in terms of placements in the following year being considered for secure accommodation.