Placing young people in custody: guide for youth justice practitioners

How the Youth Custody Service places a young person in custody, and how to question a placement decision.


When a child or young person under 18 is remanded or sentenced to custody, the Youth Custody Service (YCS) decides where they should be placed. This will be either at a secure training centre, secure children’s home or under-18 young offender institution (for young males only).

The placement decision is based on the information provided by youth offending teams (YOTs). The YCS’s Placement Team will contact YOTs to make sure the needs, risks and circumstances of each young person has been taken into account.

Read the The Youth Custody Service Placement Team guidance (PDF, 426 KB, 20 pages) for an overview of the main responsibilities and activities of the Youth Custody Service (YCS) Placements Service.

If the young person has broken a civil injunction then the YCS follows the relevant placement protocol (MS Word Document, 445 KB).

Notify the YCS Placement Team

YOTs should notify the YCS Placement Team as soon as the young person is sentenced.

To do this, the YOT should complete the:

When the YOT has done this, it should send all the forms to the YCS Placement Team using Connectivity, the secure system that YOTs use to share information.

The YOT should also send the post-court report form to the establishment using the same method.

If the case management system is unavailable (or in any other exceptional circumstances) the YOT can use these Word documents.

Appealing a Placement or Placement Review Decision

If you have a concern about an initial placement or placement review decision, please refer to the following How to Appeal Placement and Placement Review Decisions (PDF, 92.4 KB, 3 pages) escalation process.

How to request a transfer or placement review

The YCS carries out placement reviews to decide whether a transfer is required for a child or young person.

YOTs can ask for one if they are responsible for a child or young person and:

  • their circumstances change
  • there is a risk or issue with their current placement

To request a transfer, the YOT should read the Placement Review Guidance (MS Word Document, 402 KB) and then:

Other people can ask for a transfer but only the YOT and/or staff at the establishment where the child is placed should contact the YCS Placement Team.

The YCS Placement Team makes the final decision in the best interests of the child or young person after carefully considering all of the information available and opinions stated.

The Keppel Unit

The Keppel Unit at HM Young Offender Institution (YOI) Wetherby is a national unit for males aged 15 to 18 year with complex needs. These complex needs may include:

  • high risk to self and/ or others
  • physical or mental health needs
  • learning disabilities
  • communication needs
  • substance misuse issues

A complex needs unit aims to meet the needs of young people who cannot be maintained on normal YOI location with an enhanced care plan.

Making a referral to The Keppel Unit

If you are a professional involved in the care and management of a young person, and you feel that a referral to the Keppel Unit is appropriate, you should:

  1. Read the Keppel Unit Protocol (MS Word Document, 2.09 MB) and follow the process for transfers
  2. Fill in a Keppel Unit referral form (MS Word Document, 118 KB)
  3. Email it to

The Youth Offending Team should contact the YCS Placement Team for more information about the placement decision.

Mother and Baby Unit

All young women placed in the secure estate for children and young people that are pregnant, or have a child aged less than 18 months of age, have the chance to be placed in a dedicated young women’s Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).

An MBU aims to provide a holistic service for pregnant young women and those with babies by:

  • offering purpose built accommodation where the needs of the young women and babies can be most appropriately met
  • enabling pregnant young women, and those with babies, to live and look after their babies while they are in custody, or until the baby reaches the age of 18 months
  • providing support to pregnant young women and the unborn child and aid the young women through their birth plan

Our MBU is a currently dedicated unit within Rainsbrook STC.

Admission process

YOTs should read the guidance on the placement of pregnant girls and mothers (MS Word Document, 320 KB) before discussing a potential admission with the YCS Placement team.

Please do not complete the Mother and baby unit application form (MS Word Document, 163 KB) before discussing with the Placement Service.

For more information, read:

How to request additional licence conditions

How a child under 13 is placed in welfare accommodation

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 14 February 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added attachment 11 and updated the Appealing a Placement or Placement Review decision section

  2. Updated information under The Keppel Unit and Mother and Baby Units

  3. updated link to civil injunction protocol document

  4. First published.