Children’s Social Work Statistics 2022-23 - Secure Care

Secure Care Statistics for Scotland for 2022 to 2023 that cover data on children in secure care accommodation.

Background notes

Legal framework

The children’s Hearings system has responsibility for dealing with most children and children under 16 who commit offences or who are in need of care and protection. In some cases, Children’s Hearings have responsibility for children under 18 where the child is under the supervision of the Hearing when they reach 16 and the compulsory supervision order  is extended.

For children who commit very grave crimes (the circumstances are set out in the relevant Lord Advocate’s guidelines), the option remains for them to be jointly reported to the Children’s Reporter and the Procurator Fiscal who, together, will decide whether prosecution through the court is appropriate. The court may then sentence or return the child to the Hearing to be dealt with.

A child who appears in court accused of an offence, where bail is not considered appropriate, can be remanded to the care of the local authority responsible for them under section 51 of the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995. Local authorities are then responsible for placing that child in secure care.

A child convicted of an offence in court can be sentenced to detention in secure care accommodation under section 205 or 208 of the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995. In these cases, it is the responsibility of Scottish Ministers to place the sentenced child in suitable accommodation.

Before a child can be placed in secure care accommodation through the children’s hearings system, the children’s panel must consider whether they meets the legal criteria set out in The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 before making a Secure Accommodation Authorisation:

  • the child has previously absconded and is likely to abscond again and, if the child were to abscond, it is likely that the child’s physical, mental, or moral welfare would be at risk;
  • the child is likely to engage in self-harming conduct;
  • the child is likely to cause injury to another person.

Emergency beds

Emergency/short-term refers to those which can be used at short notice, for example, when a child is admitted during the night, as it is less disruptive for the other children. The child is usually admitted to the main facility the following day.

Ethnicity and religion data

Ethnicity and religion data was collected for children in secure care and a breakdown for children admitted to secure care during the year can be found in Additional Tables.

Comparability over time

As the number of children using secure care is relatively small, relative changes over time may show greater percentage changes than other types of trends.

Disability and additional support needs

Prior to 2011/12 data was collected on ‘disability’, however, because the categories in use were not consistent with the definition of disability in the Equalities Act (2010), in publications between 2011/12 and 2014/15, data was presented as ‘additional support needs’. The statistics themselves did not change in any way – the content of the data and categories remained the same, so were comparable over time.

From 2016/17 onwards, a new disability question was included in all three data collections. The question is a yes/no, but with a more stringent qualification: “Does the young person have a mental or physical impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?”. This means that disability data/categories are not comparable with prior to 2016. Work is underway to find a unified set of disability criteria to provide more detail and to meet user needs.

Cross UK comparability

Since 2011/12, Scotland’s data collection year as run from 1 August to 31 July, whilst the collection year in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland spans 1 April to 31 March. It should be noted that UK nations operate under different legislative frameworks, and as such are not directly comparable. The Scottish Government has undertaken work with the other administrations to document clearly the differences between each administration’s looked after children statistics and to scope out the feasibility and need for a comparable dataset. Work was also commissioned by the Department for Education to document clearly the differences between each administration’s child protection statistics. Further developments from this work can be found in UK Comparability of Children's Social Services Statistics.

Data quality and revisions

The survey templates, data specifications, and guidance notes for the statistics presented in this publication are available on the Scottish Exchange of Data (ScotXed) website. The data specifications include standard validation checks undertaken for quality assurance.

Data included in this publication come from administrative data held by secure care accommodation services units. As this information is used to monitor and manage these sectors it should be robust and accurate.

Automated validation checks are undertaken at the point the data are submitted. These validations are outlined in the relevant Scottish Exchange of Data (ScotXed) data specifications documents. Second level validation checks are then undertaken by the Children and Families Statistics Team as part of the quality assurance process. These procedures include: trend analysis, comparing against other available sources, and checking outliers with data providers. The data providers are then asked to confirm and sign off their data. In cases where concerns about data quality outweigh the value of having an estimated figure publicly available, we would not publish that particular information.

Where data need to be revised due to the resubmission of data for a particular year, or to correct errors, the timing will be announced on our website and by email to those who have registered an interest in our statistics. The impact of revisions will be clearly explained in our published reports.

Related publications




Northern Ireland

Secure care accommodation Official/ National Statistics are not produced. However, there is one secure care accommodation service that can provide secure care for up to 16 children aged 12-18. 

Accessibility statement

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Correspondence and enquiries

For enquiries about this publication please contact:

Children and Families Analysis, Education Analytical Services


For general enquiries about Scottish Government statistics please contact:

Office of the Chief Statistician

Telephone: 0131 244 0302


How to access background or source data

The data collected for this statistical bulletin may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact for further information.

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