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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Safe inside? Child sexual abuse in the youth secure estate

Perceptions of safety in the youth secure estate

Establishments were making efforts to cultivate safe environments and improve safety and safeguarding practice. Recent and ongoing change was notable.

Children initially reported feeling safe in their respective establishments and believed the necessary measures were in place to protect them. They perceived that staff had a duty of care to keep them safe and overall did a good job of doing so. However, when safety was explored in more detail with them, it was clear they did not feel as safe as they initially indicated and had concerns about their safety in relation to other children. In particular, they worried about physical violence and bullying, the general unpredictability of other children’s behaviour, and had anxieties about who they were sharing a living space with. Children were employing self protection strategies to help them feel safe with many operating on the basis they needed to be vigilant at all times. Children’s initial reporting of feeling safe was also relative – rather than absolute. They reported feeling relatively safe in their current establishment compared to other secure establishments they had been to before, or feeling safer in their current establishment compared to their expectations about the youth secure estate before they arrived. For children placed on welfare grounds, the secure environment was a ‘safe space’ compared to the outside world.

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