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Atkinson Secure Children’s Home

Helping young people to understand and manage their emotions

Statement of purpose and function


Last Updated


Atkinson provides secure accommodation for young people of mixed gender in a therapeutic, and trauma informed environment. We understand that the young people we care for have often experienced developmental and acute trauma, requiring a special kind of trauma focused, therapeutic parenting.  Our primary aim is to help young people feel safe and emotionally contained, enabling them to begin to build trusting relationships with adults.  It is through these relationships that we can support young people in meeting their individual care, education, and health needs in preparation for re-integration into the community.  As such, we provide a minimum of 1-1 care for every young person throughout their stay with us, which we believe helps achieve the very best outcomes with regards to their social, emotional, and behavioural functioning.

The home accommodates up to 8 young people of either gender aged between 10 and 17 years who meet the criteria under section 25 of the Children Act 1989. The home is situated in a suburban area on the eastern outskirts of Exeter, approximately 10 minutes’ drive from the M5. The home is ideally placed for its close location to the coast and Dartmoor National Park.

The home has two living areas, Haytor and Brentor which were renovated in 2020 to modernise and improve the fixtures and fittings creating warm, relaxed communal living spaces.  Each bedroom is single occupancy and has its own air-conditioning unit, television, telephone, toilet and shower, and call button. Young people are encouraged to personalise their rooms with personal possessions and posters (subject to risk levels). Brentor and Haytor also have life skills rooms, which can be used to develop independent living skills, reward positive behaviour on the incentive scheme and support educational learning. Within the Brentor area we have a self-contained high dependency facility for young people who are continuously dysregulated and presenting with harmful behaviours. Young people can only be placed in this facility if they meet the set criteria/threshold, which is reviewed daily by the management team.

The young people are free to use the extensive facilities of the home, which include a full-size sports hall with table tennis, climbing wall, badminton, and basketball. There is also a fitness room with cardiovascular exercise and fixed weight training equipment to promote fitness. The home has an astro-turf football pitch, multi-purpose track, playpark, and a garden area with polytunnel for growing fresh fruit and vegetables. There is a fully equipped sensory room to support young people when they are feeling anxious and promote self-soothing strategies.  There is a music room in which young people can listen to and download music and as part of our educational provision, we will provide tutors for learning instruments, singing, and creating and recording music.  The education facilities are available to young people (with staff) outside education time, which allows them to undertake art activities and prepare and cook food in the catering kitchen. The vocational facilities in the garden and catering areas provide “seed to table” awareness and training, and the training kitchen supports and provides an insight into careers in the catering service. The home has a beauty salon that enables young people to undertake a vocational qualification within an educational setting.

Ethos of the home

Atkinson has fully embraced the ethos of Secure Stairs, an NHS England led project looking to improve the experience of care for young people across the secure estate.  It recognises that the relationship between our young people and our multi-disciplinary staff team is crucial in promoting change and that “every interaction matter”.  To be well-regulated and effective therapeutic parents, it is essential our staff team are well cared for and receive appropriate training, supervision, and support, which in turn promotes empowerment and builds emotional resilience.  We value reflective practice as a means of learning and developing our practice and regular opportunities for this are provided throughout the week.  

Secure Stairs also promotes formulation led care, i.e., understanding each young person’s story so that care planning can be adapted to individual needs.  This is central to our work with our young people, with initial team formulations being developed from our formulation and planning meeting in the first week of a young person’s stay.  Our care plans are integrative and regular reviews are undertaken within a Core Team for each young person, with representation from care, health, and education.

In recognising the high level of trauma that most of our young people have experienced, we use the Trauma Recovery Model (Matthew and Skuse) to help guide our practice.  Our primary aim is to help young people feel safe and emotionally contained, with an initial focus on settling young people into the routines of the home and providing consistent care and boundaries.  We understand the importance of helping young people with basic care needs, such as sleep, diet and personal hygiene, which also helps to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence and general emotional health. 

In recovering from trauma, we recognise the importance of helping our young people to develop trusting relationships with our staff team.  It is only then that we can start to ‘talk about the tough stuff’ and help our young people think about and process their experiences.  Our home uses a therapeutic parenting model derived from Dyadic Developmental Practice (Hughes and Golding).  We talk about ‘connection before correction’ as a means of managing paralysing shame, which is often at the core of our young people’s emotional world.  The home aspires to promote an attitude of PACE; playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.  In this way, we can work with our young people to co-regulate their emotions, help them to tolerate distress and develop more socially acceptable ways of managing often overwhelming feelings.  We also coach young people in repairing relationships when they breakdown, both with the staff team and each other. 

The focus of our therapeutic work is relational and to effectively meet individual needs we provide high staffing ratios with a minimum of 1-1 support throughout their stay with us.  This provides the high level of consistent care we believe our young people require in order to begin to address the significant consequences of often a lifetime of disrupted attachments.  The consistency of care across the group also avoids triggering feelings of abandonment and neglect which can play out for those young people not in receipt of 1-1.  In addition, it helps us to ensure that our young people with more avoidant attachment patterns, who often present with a level of pseudo-independence and are good at ‘keeping their heads down’, are not overlooked and receive the intensity of support they also require.

Our Direct Work with young people is tailored to where they are within the Trauma Recovery Model. In time, most young people can develop trusting relationships and can begin to ‘talk about the tough stuff’.  With support, many will gain a degree of insight into their social, emotional and behavioural functioning and will begin to make different choices and experience more positive ways of being with people.  Given the brief length of stay for most of our young people, a good outcome may sometimes be that a young person can finally begin to feel safe and to trust in the adults around them, thereby hopefully helping to improve their confidence in engaging with support services in their move back to the community.  More specialist Direct Work is available to our young people as appropriate.  We have a REACH worker who undertakes work around exploitation, YSMART who provide a substance misuse service, a Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist and CAMHS team who work directly with young people and support the staff team in their role of therapeutic parents. We have also embedded with 2 workers who are working with “The Thrive Approach” which is an ideal tool for professionals working in education and local authorities – as well as those in social care, the health care sector and those supporting families in the community.

Atkinson aims to work as collaboratively as possible with young people and key stakeholders in their care; as an example, young people are encouraged to attend their initial formulation and planning meeting.  We also value participation by young people in service/staff development.  A participative community meeting is held each week with young people with the aim that this will eventually be ‘owned’ by the young people themselves. This is discussed further below. 

Atkinson strives to uphold the principles of young people’s rights to be treated with equality, fairness and respect and to have their needs met, irrespective of their age, gender, racial, or religious background and sexuality. The home encourages young people to develop an understanding about how their behaviour can impact others and promotes a culture of respect and a restorative ethos.  Everyone in the Home, whether staff or young person, is valued for their unique qualities and their potential as a member of the community both now and in the future.

Atkinson assists young people and those concerned with their welfare in making a realistic assessment of their future needs and how those can be promoted to achieve the best possible outcomes. Promoting educational achievement is essential in helping young people achieve the best possible outcomes. The home actively encourages young people with no or very little educational attainment to aim for, reach and exceed educational goals. This can be in the form of national curriculum-based work, vocational training and qualifications and use of forest school outdoor education.  We often see significant improvements in self-esteem through educational progression.   

We recognise that, although young people come into secure accommodation through a variety of routes, they are all at a point of crisis in their lives; they are unsafe and often in a state of physical and emotional turmoil. We aim to help young people feel safe, develop trusting relationships with adults and ‘talk about the tough stuff’ in order to gain insight and awareness and to promote positive, holistic change in their lives.  It is hoped that over their time at Atkinson, our young people will make real progress towards gaining a sense of purpose and achievement that will give a solid basis for future planning.

Key objectives

The key objectives of Atkinson are:

  • To help young people feel safe enough to trust in the adults around them so that we can work together to ‘talk about the tough stuff’ and understand their journey into Atkinson and the risks they’ve faced in the community.
  • Through therapeutic parenting and an ethos of PACE, to help young people better understand, regulate and express their emotions.
  • To help young people gain insight and awareness into how they impact others and to support them in repairing harm.
  • To provide a high standard of integrated care planning that address individual needs across care, health and education.
  • To treat each young person, members of their family and members of staff as valued individuals and not to discriminate against them on grounds of their age, race, religious belief or sexual orientation.
  • To promote meaningful and respectful collaboration and participation with young people and their families
  • To provide support, advice and advocacy as required to young people, their carers and purchasers of the service.
  • To ensure that all complaints are taken seriously and fully investigated with outside support and regulation.
  • To provide a highly trained, resilient and dedicated staff team, committed to improving the lives of the young people in their care.
  • To provide a safe, stimulating and caring environment which adopts trauma informed and restorative approaches whilst promoting holistic growth and development.
  • To ensure that the young person’s stay helps prepare them and the system around them for life after they leave the home.

Achieving the objectives


Atkinson seriously considers all referrals made to the home. A lengthy telephone conversation and review of referral documentation allows the management team to ascertain the prospective resident’s suitability to be placed with the current client group. Referrals will be declined if the manager considers that the young person would pose a significant, unmanageable risk to the current residents. We are unable to meet the needs of young people on a current detox programme at the time of admission.

Criteria for admission

Admission to Secure Children’s Homes is strictly regulated by law:

  • Section 25 Children Act 1989
  • Section 38 (6) Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984

Young people can only be admitted to the Home if they fulfil the requirements of the above.

Young people under 13 can only be admitted with the authorisation of the Secretary of State if the admission is sought on welfare grounds.

Requests for placement

Atkinson forms part of the Secure Accommodation Network (SAN). Vacancies are notified to the Secure Welfare Co-ordination Unit (SWCU) for England & Wales. Referrals from other countries (if legally viable) will be considered and the SCU will be informed if young people are admitted into Atkinson.

Decisions on admitting young people are made by the management team based on:

  1. Geographical location. South West region has priority, if matching is correct
  • Vulnerability/risks presented by the young person in respect of any other possible placement, including prison.
  • The mix of young people already accommodated and any possible risks that may occur.
  • The ability of the Home to meet any special needs identified.

Emergency placements are accepted providing that the correct legal procedures have been followed and the authorisation is in place.

The admission process

Young people being admitted to a secure environment can be extremely anxious and frightened. It has been found to be quite common practice for Social Workers to conceal the destination from a young person to achieve admission with minimum fuss. This is not acceptable. Young people need to be told clearly the reason for the decision to secure them, what it is hoped to achieve by the placement and what they can expect on admission. Atkinson can provide information for these young people and their carers about the Home, what they can and cannot do, and our aims and objectives, which may help to allay some fears.

To maintain security, possessions and, if necessary, young people (risk-led) will be searched on admission before they are shown their room or introduced to the other young people. Items not allowed in the Home will be returned to the family or Social Worker as soon as possible. Clothing will be searched but no intrusive body searches will be carried out, although young people may be kept separated and asked to hand over items hidden in their bodies if there is good reason to suspect that they have concealed something. 

Atkinson has a purpose-built admission suite and medical room to ensure the admission process is as child friendly and focussed as possible and to help the young person to more quickly settle into the home.

New admissions will be introduced to their key worker if they are on duty, or to another regular member of staff who will show them around, introduce them to the other staff and residents, help them to become familiar with the layout and rules and routines of the Home and answer any questions that they may have.

If parents or carers are present for the admission, they will also have a chance to see their young person’s room and where they will be spending their days.

Where appropriate, young people will be encouraged to ring their families as soon as possible after admission. In circumstances where this would be inappropriate, or unwelcome, staff will initiate contact and give families the opportunity to raise any issues or questions they may have.

Exit and re-settlement plans

It is essential that, although it may represent a very significant stage in a young person’s life, Atkinson is seen in the context of being just one part of a continuing plan rather than the inevitable end of a series of events. To give, what are likely to be, very unhappy and frightened young people a feeling of security and faith in the future, plans for their eventual discharge, however far away that may be, must be under active consideration from the day of admission. It is an expectation that each young person will know where his or her next placement will be and have had the opportunity to express their views, at least one month before their leaving date.

The case management team works closely with the placing authority and prospective placements to ensure that the transfer is carried out as smoothly as possible and that essential information is communicated to new educational placements etc.

Atkinson is pro-active in preparing young people for leaving, providing a wide range of learning opportunities from life skills to sexual health and parenting, cooking and budgeting, and key workers will provide post leaving contact, if it is considered appropriate, to ensure that any re-settlement problems are overcome as swiftly as possible. Young people can contact Atkinson by letter, telephone, website or e-mail after leaving, should they wish to do so.

Health and wellbeing

Atkinson works in partnership with many health care professionals to provide a holistic approach to our young people’s physical and mental healthcare. All young people are screened using the Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool (CHAT), which covers an initial screen, physical health assessment, mental health assessment, substance misuse assessment and a neuro-disability assessment within a 10-day period from admission.

The home has a purpose-built medical room where young people can see the doctor or nurse in private.  The GP can undertake screening tests for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy if required. Physical health plans are promptly produced by our nurse, which feed into each young person’s integrated Care Plan.  In partnership with education and health, we deliver psycho education around sexual health which helps young people understand how their bodies work and the importance of positive, appropriate loving relationships.  

A substance misuse worker attends the home twice a week to offer initial screening, individual sessions around psychoeducation and harm reduction and support and training to our staff team.  We have a REACH worker who visits the home to offer individual and group work around exploitation.  Our Speech and Language Therapist visits the home weekly and can offer individual assessment and intervention for our young people.  They are also helping us to think about communication more generally across the home to ensure we maximise opportunities for successful communication. 

The home has access to a sensory-attachment trained Occupational Therapist, who support both our young people and our staff team around emotion-regulation from a sensory processing perspective.  They also help us to think about the environment of the home from a sensory perspective, to really enhance opportunities for regulation on a day to day basis.  In addition, we have a multi-sensory room specifically designed to help our young people experience a deep sense of relaxation and to access a wide range of sensory experiences for therapy, learning and/or fun. 

The Atkinson CAMHS team aims to support young people through direct therapeutic work and indirectly through support and consultation to the staff team.  The senior Clinical Psychologist also works closely with the SMT and Commissioners to provide strategic direction in the development of Atkinson as a therapeutic provision.

A member of the CAMHS team will attend the formulation and planning meeting for each young person within a week of their arrival, following which initial therapeutic objectives are set for the young person’s stay.  All young people arriving in Atkinson will be offered the opportunity to meet a member of the CAMHS team to complete the CHAT assessment and consider their therapeutic goals.  If the young person chooses not to meet with CAMHS, the team will continue to hold an overview of their care and work closely with the staff team to ensure we are able to meet their emotional health needs.  Continued efforts will be made to engage them.

A core component of the CAMHS work is to collaboratively develop a psychological formulation of a young person’s presentation, which helps us to understand their current behaviour in the context of their life experiences and to think about how best to meet their needs in the present and future.  Whenever possible, this work seeks to involve the young person’s family in the co-creation of this ‘story’.  When contact allows, CAMHS will work with young people and their families together.  We aim to help families feel safe and to develop trusting relationships in working with us so that we can again ‘talk about the tough stuff’, and young people and families can come together in processing family trauma and think about the future.  As part of the formulation process, a behavioural plan is completed with the young person identifying risks and triggers around challenging behaviour.  This helps the staff team on a day to day basis to work safely and effectively with each young person.   

We recognise that our young people often have a range of neurodevelopmental needs, including autism, ADHD and learning needs, as well as difficulties with speech and language and sensory processing.  Our Clinical Psychologist has extensive experience of working with young people with complex neurodevelopmental needs can undertake cognitive assessments if indicated.  Information from all our therapists helps to inform our formulation and how we work with young people on a day to day basis. 

Young people often present with high levels of anxiety and low mood and many engage in self-harm as a means of expressing their overwhelming emotions.  Many present with acute symptoms of trauma, including flashbacks, intrusive thoughts/images, nightmares etc.  CAMHS’ practitioners work with young people (and through the care team) to help them manage their emotions and process the underlying trauma.  Given the average length of stay, this is often just the beginning of their therapeutic journey and we work hard to ensure each young person has appropriate therapeutic support in the community on leaving the home.        

CAMHS also chair weekly Team Formulation meetings, providing a reflective space for the staff team to think about each young person’s story, how this helps us to understand their current behaviour and the things to keep in mind when parenting them.  In addition, the team provides individual Consultation and Clinical Supervision to staff members both in respect of their direct work with young people and, when required, in relation to their own emotional wellbeing which may be impacting on their performance at work.  

Atkinson strives to work to the CYP IAPT (The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme drawn up jointly by NHS England and Health Education England to provide evidence based, outcome informed, quality driven services that have collaboration and participation at its heart.  Routine outcome monitoring is being developed across the home, with care being taken to ensure measures are meaningful to our young people who have complex and co-morbid presentations.  Atkinson aims to utilise both ‘patient experience’ and ‘patient outcome’ measures which will include standardised and idiosyncratic measures. 

Alongside physical and emotional health, Atkinson is striving to promote a public health agenda, including good nutrition and eating habits, exercise and sleep.  Developing daily healthy lifestyles is essential in teaching young people to look after themselves. A daily choice of menu is available which always includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and salad; when required special cultural and religious foods can be provided. Residents participate in the planting and tending of fruit and vegetables in the home’s polytunnel and garden. The produce is prepared and consumed by them during catering lessons.

Atkinson offers daily opportunities for physical exercise through activities such as football, keep-fit, dance, multi-gym and swimming. For those who wish to take advantage there is also a climbing wall.  Historically, we found our young females struggled to engage in the fitness activities offered.  The home consulted with young people about how best this situation could be remedied. As a result of this consultation the home now has an outdoor play park.

Our partners – health and wellbeing team

Service offeredProfessionals details
General PractitionerDr David Hopkins, Dr Nina Sandercombe & Dr James Finn Mount Pleasant Surgery

Mount Pleasant Road Exeter EX4 7BW (visits twice a week and other times when requested and attends a Health and Wellbeing Team meeting once a month)
Consultant PsychiatristDr Susan Howson (1 day per week)
Clinical PsychologistDr Karen Cloute (4 days per week)
Advanced mental health practitioner/social workerVacancy
Speech and language therapistClaire Tamplin (1 day per week)
Occupational TherapyChris West (2 days per week)
The Adoption Consultancy 360 Ltd
West Grange
Clyst Heath
DentistAt Home Dental,
24 Bridgetown Hill
Local Branch is Exeter
(visits when required)
Substance misuseY-Smart, Simon Death, Manager
(initial assessment for all new residents to assess level of any ongoing service needed)
NurseDana Jackson (3 days p/week)
Reach (Exploitation)Claire Haines (1 day per week)


The education provision is experienced in working with a very wide age and ability range of young people, many of whom will have been disengaged or excluded from formal education systems for long periods of time. Every effort is made to meet the educational needs of each young person, from basic Literacy and Numeracy skills to entrance for external examinations. This may, in some circumstances, include the use of specialist teachers on a sessional basis or attendance at external college courses as part of a pre-discharge programme. We operate a full school day with 25 hours teaching time offered to every student per week. Local authorities placing young people in the home may be called upon to fund a 1:1 teaching assistant if this is required to enable a young person with special educational needs to succeed in education.  There is a dedicated SENCO teacher to assess individual needs and provide intervention programmes as required.

Every effort is made to arrange children’s review meetings outside of school hours.  The school has a Student Learning Journey Plan (SLJP) for each pupil; this encapsulates in one document the attainment levels of achievement for each subject as well as the projected progress for each individual. The plan covers social and emotional learning and identifies strategies that can help maximise student integration and participation in the lesson. SMART targets are agreed with the pupil and give them achievable goals to work towards. The SLJP is a living document that can be passed onto the next educational provision that the young person attends, thus maintaining the momentum in educational progression.

Using individually tailored learning programmes, the school aims to provide a positive learning experience in a wide range of subjects including English, Maths, Science and Art; this can be built upon when the young person returns to the community or moves to another placement. Emphasis is also put on vocational training, and physical subjects like P.E. and Performing Arts. The development of social skills is encouraged through team building and leadership challenges; particularly in the Forest School, which allows young people to learn in an outdoor environment.

Through our use of the APT award scheme, a nationally recognised qualification within industry, accreditation can be gained which can be transferred to their next school, and young people can experience a holistic approach to their learning. Young people who show aptitude in a vocational area are also encouraged to participate in work experience. This has resulted in students receiving job offers in addition to their college placements when they leave Atkinson.  Work experience also allows us to work with young people around their social and emotional development in a workplace setting. 

The school structure consists of a Head of Education, four Teachers (including one SENCO), two Instructors, a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant, Teaching Assistant (pastoral support) and three Residential Education Support Workers.

Caring for young people

Placement planning for young people in the home

The initial multi-disciplinary formulation and placement planning meeting ensures that the needs of the young person, as identified by the local authority, are incorporated into the home’s placement plan.  The placement plan informs all parties about how the home is to meet the young person’s needs on a day-to-day basis.  The meeting also enables us to begin to talk together about the young person’s story and to develop an initial formulation around their presentation.  

Health, Educational and Care colleagues work together to agree each young person’s individualised plan.  This is done in collaboration with the young person whenever possible, however at this early stage in their stay, many young people are angry at being secured and with their Social Worker and can struggle to work in partnership.  With this in mind, the placement plan (named Atkinson Plan) is reviewed with the young person on a regular basis so that their views can be incorporated.

Direct therapeutic work may cover a range of themes, including:

  • Emotional regulation: e.g., self-soothing; distress tolerance; developing emotional literacy
  • Life Skills: e.g., budgeting; cooking; washing; community living skills
  • Relationships: e.g., managing conflict; social skills; repairing relationships; bullying; domestic violence
  • Health: e.g., sexual health; nutrition; exercise; sleep
  • Harm reduction/risk management: e.g., CSE; substance misuse; gang related behaviour; violence/abusive behaviour/language
  • Emotional wellbeing: e.g., self-esteem; bereavement work; support around disclosures; developmentally appropriate play; identity; sexuality
  • Parenting skills
  • Future planning: e.g., planning for all aspects of transition
  • Making sense of their story (formulation work)
  • Family work: e.g., supporting families to make sense of their story and plan

Helping our young people to better understand and manage themselves and their emotional world, alongside learning how to accept care and boundaries from adults, is central in their preparation for community living.  Our mobility program helps our young people to stay connected to the community and to apply their developing social and emotional skills in a ‘real world’ setting. 

Atkinson works in partnership with the local authority and other professionals to ensure that the young person’s identified needs are met. Where the home has concerns about the adequacy of the local authority’s response with regards to the needs identified in the young person’s care plans, it will work with the nominated workers and if necessary, progressively escalate the issue through the local authority’s management tier until successfully resolved.

Length of stay

Regular meetings (Secure Accommodation Reviews – SAR) to assess if the young person still meets the criteria for a Secure Order are held one month after admission and either just prior to their planned discharge or at a minimum of 3 monthly intervals thereafter. At each stage alternative provisions, which could mean a return to the community, must be considered.

Whilst we acknowledge a conflict of interest, we have learnt that is helpful for the home to provide views as to whether a young person should still be secured.  We do of course provide reports of the young person’s progress and current risk levels, to assist the Secure Accommodation Review Panel in making their decision regarding whether the young person meets the criteria to remain in secure accommodation.

An exit plan must be under active consideration from the day of admission, both to reassure the young person that the deprivation of liberty is finite, and to enable proper, focused preparation for the move to take place. Atkinson has a case management team who support a smooth transition for young people leaving the home. They work closely with the local authority to ensure that the young person’s wishes are fully represented in the transition process.

Equality and diversity

Atkinson adheres to the Equality Policy for Devon County Council. Every resident is treated as an individual and care is taken to try to meet their specific requirements. The home is committed to treating all young people and their families fairly, irrespective of their:

  • Age – For many young people, their physical age does not always match their developmental or emotional age. Abusive life experiences missed education and developmental delays can result in young people functioning at a much lower level than their chronological age. The home makes a holistic evaluation of the young person to ensure that it meets the young person’s needs at the level at which they are functioning.     
  • Gender – The home is mindful of the varying needs of young people based on their gender. The home provides a balanced staff team of both male and female role models who help young people reach their potential regardless of their gender.
  • Disability – Specific advice is sought from the Local Health Authority so that, working in     conjunction with the young person’s own expressed preferences, staff can be advised on the best and most sensitive ways of minimising any possible disadvantages to them.
  • Race – The home works closely with the young person, their family (where appropriate) and local authority to meet their needs based on their race and culture. Where English is not a young person’s first language the home can access a translator for meetings and reviews so that the young person can fully understand and participate in the meeting. The home has robust mechanisms for dealing with racial comments through restorative approaches and, where needed, the local neighbourhood police officer. Atkinson is mindful of the fact that some young people may have grown up in a racist environment and may not fully understand the consequences and impact of their behaviour. Direct work with keyworkers or staff from an ethnic background helps them to understand the impact of their behaviour and change entrenched stereotypes.
  • Religion and belief – the home can support young people in their religious beliefs by providing contact with a minister of their faith and arranging for acts of worship appropriate to individual needs. Bibles, Qurans or other religious books can be provided, and dietary requirements can be catered for by the experienced catering team.
  • Sexuality Young people often have uncertain feelings about their sexuality. Staff support young people with their life choices but always encourage young people to develop appropriate, safe and caring relationships, irrespective of their sexual orientation.


If any resident does not speak English as a first language, then we will ensure that residents have access to interpreters so that their individual needs are met, and they have the same opportunities as other residents in the home. 

Upon admission, we would expect the local authority to provide detailed information about the resident including any language barriers. The local authority would be responsible for ensuring interpreter services were available to the resident. If for any reason this support was not in place prior to admission, we can contact our local linguistics service.  Devon County Council uses the provider outlined below, which operates 24 hours a day:

Multilingual (Devon) – 01392 276660/07951948038

There is also a national service that other local authorities can use:

Language Line – 0808 109 3500

Consultations, participation, complaints and compliments and advocacy


Atkinson recognises the importance of working collaboratively with young people around their care planning, and of inviting them to participate in the development of the home and services provided.  Atkinson has its own Participation Strategy, detailing ‘pledges’ of how the home will work to engage young people, for example in the recruitment, appraisal process and training of staff. 

Atkinson has always sought out opportunities for feedback and our young people are regularly consulted about the quality of care they receive and on issues of interest to them and have the chance to raise issues through Group Forum, which is held weekly.  Where possible, young people are consulted about planned changes in the home; obtaining their views and opinions helps the home to develop services that are relevant, and child focussed. Young people at Atkinson can take part in a Young Person’s panel to interview prospective new care staff and managers, as part of our recruitment processes.

Young persons’ views are sought after physical interventions, single separations and when sanctions are issued, these are recorded on the relevant documentation and give the young person’s perspective of the situation. These comments are reviewed by a manager. The staff members involved also have the opportunity to reflect on the young person’s comments.

Questionnaires are given to young people, parents and carers and professionals to ascertain their view of the quality of care provided by the home.  Feedback is used to review the quality of the service and to make improvements. The Regulation 44 visitors to the home spend time with young people gaining their views and opinions of the service provided.  These are reported back to the manager and, where possible, proposals for change are introduced into the home. Issues that may not be able to be introduced into the home in the short term, but have merit, are feasible and would improve the service provided, are incorporated into the home’s development plan.

The case management team meet with each young person monthly to review the young person’s placement plan.  These are opportunities for the young person to share their views and opinions on the service provided by the home. It also allows young people to discuss how they would like their views to be expressed at any forthcoming meetings.


Young people have the complaints procedure explained to them when they come into the home and the admission pack gives further details of who the young person can approach. Young people can also ask to see one of the management team at any time if they have a complaint which cannot be resolved easily or where they are not satisfied with the outcome.

There is also an internal written complaints procedure and a confidential card which can be sent straight to the customer services department within Devon County Council.

Young people may contact their solicitors, social workers, or use their own local authority complaints system if they wish to do so.

In addition, a representative of NYAS for the child in care regularly visits the Home and is available to individual young people to speak to in confidence. Young people may also telephone NYAS or Childline if they wish to do so. 

The independent monitor who visits the Home under Regulation 44 may also be approached by young people who wish to complain.

Complaints which cannot be dealt with within the Home are centrally recorded, monitored and progressed via central services.

A copy of the Feedback policy which includes how to make a complaint is available from the Manager. The Manager may also be contacted, preferably in writing, if an interested stakeholder or member of the public wishes to make a complaint (see page 23 for contact details).

When a young person is admitted, an introductory letter and a copy of the Statement of Purpose and Function is sent to their parents (where appropriate). The letter informs parents how to leave feedback about the service or make a complaint. Parents are encouraged to contact the duty manager in the first instance for an informal discussion if they have concerns. If this proves unsatisfactory then the manager should be contacted, or the matter can be referred to Devon County Council customer services on 0800 212 783.


Compliments or thanks from social workers, families and young people are centrally recorded and passed to the individuals concerned. Feedback forms are sent to every Social Worker, guardian and young person one month after leaving. Both compliments and complaints are shared with the local authority customer services team (Devon County Council).


NYAS are contracted to make fortnightly visits to meet with young people. Additionally, advocacy on behalf of the young person is a primary task of the key worker and the case management team. This may involve ensuring that the young person always has adequate legal representation when necessary and challenging departments and institutions if there is a danger of their rights being infringed. It could also involve putting young people in touch with organisations that will investigate and take up their complaints formally.

Independent Statutory Visitors including a Regulation 44 Visitor and NYAS representatives visit the Home regularly. Young people can speak to them in private if they have any concerns or complaints and may make confidential contact by letter or telephone. Lists of telephone numbers to advocates/inspectors are supplied.

Safeguarding young people

The over-riding principle always is to maintain the safety and security of the public and the young people living in the Home.

No activities take place inside or outside the Home without an assessment of risk and steps being taken to minimise any possibilities of security being compromised.

Items likely to cause harm are closely monitored during usage and staff are trained in preventing and minimising violent and self-destructive behaviour.

Safety checks on rooms take place regularly and residents may be given a full search when entering the home from outside depending upon risk.

Visitors are given lists of banned items and asked to work with the Home to keep everyone safe; they sign a disclaimer form to confirm that they have not brought in banned substances.

Cameras cover the outside of the building, the grounds and all areas where incidents may occur within the building. These are there for security purposes and all physical restraints and incidents of violence and aggression are viewed by a manager. Only young people’s bedrooms and the offices are not covered by CCTV.

The home has a robust safeguarding procedure whereby relevant information and safeguarding issues are recorded by staff members. The duty manager prioritises each record in line with safeguarding practice and procedure and informs the relevant authorities should this be required. The home employs an independent safeguarding expert who undertakes a minimum monthly review of the home’s safeguarding, including all level 2 safeguarding logs to identify if any improvements could be made to practice and procedure within the home.


The home’s policy defines bullying and sets out ways in which it should be countered and actions to be taken in the event of an incident or allegation.

Young people are regularly involved in the discussion of bullying and how it should be tackled and in the formulation of policies and statements to challenge bullies.

Staff are aware of, and alert to, the risks of bullying and the many ways in which it can occur. Young people are supported with restorative approaches when appropriate.

Child protection

Devon County Council has comprehensive child protection procedures with neighbouring authorities, which are followed and implemented in the Home. These are called the South West Child Protection Procedures (SWCPP).

Safer recruitment procedures are followed all staff are now on the update service which ensures DBS’ are always up to date, references being sought dating back over several years and evidence being secured of staff qualifications and status.

All staff receive an induction that includes Child Protection training and updates are carried out on a regular basis (3 yearly).

Atkinson’s full processes are retained within the home (see Atkinson Safeguarding and Safer Recruitment Policy, Procedures and Guidelines 2022).

Staff are aware of the procedures to follow should they receive a serious allegation, observe or suspect practices that are not in the best interest of the children. The Devon policy regarding allegations made against staff is followed and staff are aware of the implications.

Placing authorities are made aware of allegations and are closely involved in any strategy meetings or investigations.

Senior managers are aware of the procedures and of the need to follow those procedures and to seek advice and guidance in complex issues.

Security facilities within the Home, such as CCTV monitors and a system to record staff movements, assist in monitoring the safety of children and staff and with the investigation of complaints and allegations.

Security and surveillance

Staff carry alarms which can be activated if assistance is required. The exterior and interior of the Home is also monitored by CCTV cameras, which can be viewed in the Control Room. As stated earlier, the young people’s bedrooms and the offices are not covered by this system. CCTV footage covering physical interventions, incidents, allegations and security breaches are reviewed by managers to continually promote the home as a learning organisation which reflects on practice and strives to constantly improve the service offered.  Please refer to the CCTV policy for more information.

An electric locking system is in use, which monitors entrances and exits in most parts of the building. Generally, young people cannot pass from area to area without staff assistance; however, for suitably risk assessed young people, the lounge doors leading to the bedroom area and the life skills area can be secured to allow free access within this small area for a limited period of time.

Entrance to the Home is via a series of locked doors. Staff drawing keys and fobs are subject to electronic fingerprint identification and have a separate entrance from visitors.

Night cover

Sleeping-in (two) and two waking-night staff are on duty each night to monitor young people and attend to their needs.

Checks on young people are carried out at regular intervals, which can be increased in cases of particular risk. If a young person is believed to be extremely depressed or at risk of self-harm, then all items will be removed from their room overnight and observations maintained until they are asleep or there is believed to be no further cause for concern.

Fire precautions

Smoke alarms are fitted throughout the building and there is an automatic link to the local fire station.  Fire extinguishers are in night rooms and some offices.

The Business & Facility Manager is a trained Fire Warden.

Unauthorised Absences or Absconsion

Ofsted, Police, Parents, Out of Hours Team (if appropriate), Social Workers and the Responsible Individual are notified of any unauthorised absence. Where possible and dependant on the location where the young person absconded, staff will assist police in looking for a young person. When the young person arrives back at the home and return interview will be arranged either with the local authority or through NYAS to ascertain the reasons why the young person absconded. The management will review the incident to determine any lessons that could be learnt and the risk assessment for the young person will be revisited.


All information and practice guidance relating to Covid-19 can be found in our Business Continuity and Recovery plans.  Atkinson adopts the latest Government guidance from Public Health England in line with Devon County Council individual and building risk management procedures.  As a Secure Children’s Home (SCH) we are categorised as a high-risk priority setting in the event of a confirmed outbreak which would be managed by the local Health Protection Team.  We have considered the guidance produced by NHS England and the Youth Custody Service (YCS) as this is specific to secure settings including YCS Secure Children’s Homes.

Our primary aim is to a be a Covid safe setting and continue to meet the needs of children and staff in the home. To support this, we adopt regimes that include handwashing, social distancing, additional cleaning and PPE as and when required. If we have a suspected or confirmed case, we will have to restrict certain activities or functions to maintain safety for everyone. This may include restricting all visitors, confirmed isolation areas, reducing occupancy, reducing staff numbers (within safe staffing ratios), changing the structure and routines so that we reduce the risk of spreading the virus. For further information please refer to Atkinson’s Business Continuity and Recovery Plans.

Maintaining contact with family, friends and the outside world


Maintaining links with the outside world is of major importance if the young person’s transition back to the community is to be successful. Information is provided in the young person’s guide, which is given on admission, regarding telephone calls, written contact, and properly supervised visits.

We recognise that Secure Children’s Homes can be daunting places and may imply a degree of failure on the part of parents. A friendly and approachable staff group, who recognise the importance of working in partnership with parents and young people and consulting them on important issues, is the key to overcoming such fears. Case coordinators and Keyworkers try to form positive working relationships with carers and to actively engage them in planning for their children’s futures.

Contact arrangements with family and friends are agreed with Social Workers and facilitated, where possible, in the evenings, at the weekends or during the holiday periods.


Young people admitted to the Home are kept under close observation for the first 4 weeks to assess risks before they are allowed on a planned programme of escorted mobility, which is agreed at the planning meeting or review.

Any incidents of absconding automatically attract a loss of mobility until a review can be held with the placing authority.

Leisure pursuits

All Residential Support Workers are expected to prepare and undertake leisure pursuits with the young people on a rota basis during the evenings and at weekends. This is overseen by a Manager to ensure that the home provides a range of activities and programmes for the young people. The Devon County Council Youth Service is available for consultation, if needed, on ways to improve the services offered.  External providers come in to deliver activities during school holidays.

The young people are encouraged to try a wide range of activities including cookery, reading, computer games, arts and crafts, games and drama. For those assessed as suitable, there are also occasional opportunities to partake in abseiling and visiting the local countryside, moors and museums.

Incentive scheme

An incentive scheme works throughout the Home whereby young people can earn points for their behaviour, leading to small rewards. It also provides a vehicle for monitoring behaviour within the Home and giving the residents a concrete way of measuring their progress in a way that aims to be both fair and specific. Young people can progress through the bronze, silver, gold levels of achievement; whilst those whose behaviour causes concern will receive help and additional support suitable to their level of functioning. Young people can also receive certificates in recognition of their efforts and achievements outside the incentive system.

The system is tailored to individual needs and capabilities with the aim of achieving measurable improvements that each young person can benefit from and can feel proud of.

Measures of control

In order to keep young people and staff safe there will be occasions when we need to implement strategies to minimise harm to self or others.  These measures are referred to in our behaviour management policy and include managed away, single separation and as a last resort physical intervention.

Managed away

Sometimes a young person’s dysregulated behaviour can pose a risk to themselves or other young people. It may be necessary for the young person to be managed away from the group for a period until their behaviour becomes more regulated. A young person who is managed away spends time on a one-to-one basis with a member of staff. This allows the staff member to engage the young person and help calm elevated feelings and emotions. The measure of managed away specifies the areas and activities the young person can access during this period. An evaluation is made every hour by a team leader or duty manager as to whether the criteria for managed away is still met.  Some young people find a time of managed away helpful in regulating the emotions. For some young people this may happen on a regular basis, so a discussion is held with the local authority and this control measure becomes part of the young person’s safety support/care plan.

Single separation

Single Separations involves the placing of a young person in their room or other area involuntarily. Staff utilise several therapeutic and de-escalation techniques to regulate and calm a young person’s harmful behaviour which prevent the use of separation. Single separation is used as a last resort and used to prevent injury to another person or to prevent serious damage to property. Young people who are singly separated are monitored regularly by staff in accordance with their Safety Support Plan which will assess their suicide and self-harm risk and will inform those staff of the level of observation to be implemented during that period of separation. The home records all instances of single separation on its electronic case management system (Clearcare).

Physical intervention

It is expected that physical intervention is used only as a last resort, with the emphasis being upon de-escalation, pro-active behaviour management, PACE conversations and Restorative Approaches. Under no circumstances should young people be restrained for non-compliance behaviours (i.e., refusing to go to bed).

Young people placed at Atkinson may be physically restrained only if all attempts to defuse or de-escalate the situation have failed and the child or young person meets the following criteria: –

Restraint should only be used in the following circumstances (Children’s Homes Regulations 2015 Reg 20):

  1. Preventing injury to any person (including the child who is being restrained);
  2. Preventing serious injury to the property of any person (including the child who is being restrained); or
  3. Preventing a child who is accommodated in a secure children’s home from absconding    from the home

The definition of injury includes psychological injury or harm as well as physical injury and harm.

We adopt a restorative approach when de-briefing young people and staff to review the incident and minimise future escalations where possible. The Physical Intervention methods used are endorsed by the General Services Association (GSA) which is recognised as one of the largest membership bodies associated with training and practice and theory in the prevention and management of violence in the UK. Staff are trained in physical intervention but also, most importantly, in de-escalation of high-risk situations. Staff undertake a two-day refresher training course each year to ensure that their knowledge and practice is up to date and that staff are competent to undertake the use of physical intervention within the home. Training sessions will include the latest evidence from research, recognised best practice and any legislative changes or statutory guidance that may have occurred since the last training course. The physical intervention tutors work within the home and provide support and guidance prior to, during and after a physical intervention.

All physical interventions are reviewed by a manager on CCTV. Staff also review the footage with a manager to identify good practice and areas where future improvements could be made. Young people are encouraged to add their own views and comments to the physical intervention logs to ensure that their point of view of the incident is captured. Our independent safeguarding expert is also available to review the home’s handling of safeguarding issues and physical interventions.

Consequences and sanctions

The home always tries to modify unacceptable behaviour through promoting positive behaviour, adopting restorative solutions to enable young people to see the impact their actions have on others.

When appropriate, natural consequences are put in place following an incident.  For example, if a young person breaks something, they will be expected to help fix it or to pay something towards the damage, this will be recorded as reparation or a sanction.  In addition, they may not be able to have that item again for a period until we are confident, they can use it safely and appropriately.    

The homes’ safeguarding and behaviour management policies are available from the Manager on request (see section below for contact details).

Management and monitoring arrangements

The responsible authority

The Atkinson Home is managed by:
Children and Young People’s Services
Devon County Council County Hall
Topsham Road Exeter.
Telephone: 0345 155 1015

The management team

The Registered Manager is: Helen Bowkett

The Deputy Manager is: Jemma Gent

The Assistant Managers are Hannah Hill, Nathan Counter and Andy Gait The QA and Compliance Manager is: Mark Street

The Business and Facilities Manager is: Andy Parkins The Head of Education is: Glenn Wilce

The Clinical Lead is: Dr Karen Cloute

Atkinson Secure Children’s Home
Atkinson Close Beacon Heath Exeter EX4 8NA
Telephone: 01392 457999

The external line manager

The Home is line managed by: (Steve Liddicott)
Devon County Council, County Hall,
Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QD

The Manager’s supervision is provided by Steve Liddicott – Deputy Chief Officer, Children’s Services.

The Manager’s clinical supervision is provided by Dr Christine Curle – Hunrosa Ltd

External line management structure

Atkinson home

Home structure chart

Management and staff

The Home comes under the remit of Devon County Council Children’s Social Care Service. It is regularly inspected and licensed by the Ofsted Inspectorate, who work in partnership with the Care Quality Commission.

A range of qualified and highly experienced staff are employed at the Home and personnel are actively encouraged to extend and update their skills through a variety of training programmes offered through the local authority and local safeguarding board.

The case co-ordinator, a key worker, tutor and CAMHS worker are allocated to each young person upon entry to the Home. These staff make up the case team for the young person. They ensure that all the young person’s needs are met, monitor the progress of the Atkinson care plan and liaise with outside bodies, e.g.: Social Workers and external health and education professionals.

Personal tutors carry out initial educational testing on young people admitted to the Home and liaise with previous schools before drawing up learning plans tailored to individual needs. Like the case team, they provide reports for Reviews and Planning Meetings and advice on the needs of the individuals in their care.

Staffing policy

All permanent and casual staff have been recruited via Devon County Council using Warner approved and safer recruitment methods. All care staff are required to train to NVQ 3 as a minimum requirement.

A mix of genders is employed to reflect the balance of young people in the Home and a mix of ages to reflect average population groups.

The Home actively tries to recruit staff from black and ethnic minority groups to enable children and young people from minority backgrounds to feel comfortable and at ease in the Home and to encourage all within the Home to value diversity.

Staffing ratios reflect the needs of the young people. The standard ratio is 1:1 and there are 2 members of waking night staff on duty all night and 2 sleeper-ins.

In the event of an emergency or incident, staff living in the houses on the site can be called to assist. A Duty Manager is always on call overnight and at weekends.

Recruitment and selection

Devon operates an equal opportunities policy and applications from ethnic minorities are positively encouraged.

The recruitment and selection process are in line with Warner recommendations. After appointment, staff are required to undertake a four-week induction programme and to take part in both in-house and external training at various levels, have or work towards the NVQ3 or equivalent and completing a level 3 diploma in Trauma Informed Practice.


This follows the Devon County Council Standard of 10 sessions per year.

The Manager of the home undertakes the supervision of the Head of Education, Clinical Psychologist (operational integration meetings with the Head Teacher), Deputy Manager, Performance & Quality Assurance Manager and Business & Facilities Manager. The Deputy Manager supervises the Assistant Managers and Team Leaders. The other Assistant Managers and Team Leaders undertake the supervision of the remaining care staff at the home.

Domestic, ancillary, and business support staff are supervised by the Business & Facilities Manager and education staff are supervised by the Head of Education.

Health care professionals receive clinical supervision and line management through their respective organisations.

Accountability and external visitors and inspections

The Manager of the Home is accountable to, and line managed by, Steve Liddicott reporting ultimately to Julian Wooster, Director of Children’s Social Care.

Regulation 44 visits

The Home is visited monthly by an Independent Service monitor. Copies of their reports are presented to Senior Managers, Ofsted and Devon County Council.

Trustee visits

The home is sited on ground owned by the Northbrook Trust, an historic charitable foundation. The home manager reports to the Northbrook Managers on a quarterly basis and Northbrook Managers make monthly visits to the home and report back to their board of managers.


The Home has a contract with NYAS who provide regular independent visitors to meet with the residents and enable them to raise any concerns that they do not wish to process through normal channels. Visits take place once a fortnight.

For young people placed by Devon County Council, NYAS also provides an independent representative for Secure Accommodation Reviews who can express the views of the young person if they wish them to do so.  Other local authorities can secure this type of service from Coram Voice.

Registration and inspection

The Home is inspected by Ofsted a minimum of twice yearly. A full inspection is followed by an interim inspection, all inspections are unannounced. Reports and requirements are sent to the Responsible Individual and the Registered Manager.

Ofsted also undertake regular 3-year licensing inspections. Reports and recommendations go to the Director of Children’s Social Care and Committee members. 

Staff qualifications and experience

Details of staff qualifications and experience are available in a separate document available from the Home. For data protection reasons the full copy is not available on the website version.

Quality assurance

The Home regularly seeks feedback from purchasers and users of the service and gathers and disseminates data on key areas.

This is used to inform quality improvement and business planning processes which feed into the performance plans for the Home.

In addition, targets for the Home’s Manager and individual staff are formulated by annual staff development reviews.

The Home also sets internal targets for improvements across a variety of areas for both individual staff and the Home in general. These are reported on a regular basis to Senior Managers. A Performance & Compliance Manager oversees the collation of relevant data and checking of progress towards targets.

Supported by Devon County Council