16th May 2019

Who are they? Where are they?

Children locked up

At any given time almost fifteen hundred children in England are ‘locked up’ in secure children’s homes, secure training centre, young offenders institutions, mental health wards and other residential placements, either for their own safety or the safety of others. These are some of the most vulnerable children in the country who, for a variety of reasons, we have not been able to help to live freely in their own homes or communities. The report seeks to identify who these children are and where they living, the costs of keeping them locked up, and to understand more about whether these places are truly meeting their needs.

We have combined data from a range of different sources to show that 1,465 children in England were securely detained in March 2018, of whom 873 were in youth justice settings, 505 were detained under the Mental Health Act, and 87 were in secure children’s homes for their own welfare. In total, we estimate that it costs over £300 million a year to look after these children.

We also found that there are at least 200 children deprived of liberty in other settings, but they are ‘invisible’ to us from publicly available data as no information is published about where they are living or why they need to be there.

This report calls on government to have proper oversight and accountability for these vulnerable children, to ensure that they are not overlooked or forgotten.

Key Statistics


£309m

a year to look after them

1,465

children detained in England at March 2018

211

children we can’t locate from data

1 per 100k

mental health beds per children in the South West