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Secure Accommodation (Juveniles)

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 22 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his estimate of the current shortfall in the number of places available in local authority secure accommodation for juveniles whom the courts wish to send to such accommodation.

Under the present law, the courts have no powers to require that any juvenile should be detained in local authority secure accommodation either before or after conviction

Is not it accepted that there is a shortfall of places available in secure units? Why do not the Government give local authorities the funding that they need to provide the places that have been identified as necessary? In Birmingham, it costs over £2,200 a week for each of the eight places that are provided and currently occupied and it is estimated that at least another 16 places are needed in the west midlands. Why do not the Government give that support? I have a letter from the local police who say that, as well as more secure units, they want to see more supervision of young people on bail and more support for offenders' families. If the Government are really committed to tackling crime, why—[Interruption.]

Local authorities have the powers that they need to provide secure accommodation. If Opposition Members think, as they should, that local authorities should give greater priority to the provision of secure accommodation, they should make those representations to the local authorities concerned, many of which are now controlled by the Labour party.

What plans does my right hon. and learned Friend have to ensure that staff in children's homes—even those in non-secure children's homes—keep a reasonable measure of control over the children in their care? Is he aware that some of the children cause absolute misery and mayhem to nearby residents?

My hon. Friend has identified a particular problem which needs to be addressed. It is a problem which will be addressed to some extent when we legislate. as I hope to do at the earliest opportunity, to give the courts the power to make orders so that young, persistent offenders can be detained in secure accommodation.

Will the Home Secretary confirm that it is now two years since the Home Office promised additional secure places for juvenile offenders and not one of those places has been built? Will he also confirm that the revenue funding for such places has not even been agreed? Does he understand that local authorities, the police and local communities do not want to wait another two or three years before those places in secure accommodation and elsewhere are available? They want action now, as it is now that crime is being committed.

The particular places to which the hon. Gentleman has referred are in the course of being provided. Why does not he address the question that I raised in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones) a few moments ago? Local authorities have the power to provide secure accommodation and there are many examples, such as Leicestershire, where the Labour party has refused to open secure accommodation that was originally provided when those counties were under Conservative control.