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Data released by the Ministry of Justice shows 291 children subject to DoL applications January to March 2024

Today, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has published information about the number of children subject to applications to deprive them of their liberty under the inherent jurisdiction of the high court (DoL applications) in their Family Court Statistics Quarterly release.

It shows that 291 children were subject to applications to deprive them of their liberty between January to March 2024 in England and Wales.

MoJ began collecting and publishing data about DoL applications under the inherent jurisdiction in July 2023. Prior to this, children subject to DoL applications did not appear in national administrative data.  

What does this release of data show?

How many applications were made?

There were 291 applications – relating to 291 individual children – for DoL orders in the high court between January and March 2024. This compares to 373 applications (including 60 ‘repeat’ applications relating to the same child) over the same period last year, according to FJO data. This suggests a slight decrease in the volume of applications, but overall the number of children subject to DoL applications remains similar.

How does this compare to applications for secure accommodation orders?

According to MoJ, over the same period (January to March 2024), there were 49 applications for secure accommodation orders to place children in a secure children’s home (see Figure 2). There was over 5 times the number of DoLs applications, compared to secure accommodation applications. 

This reflects a growing trend where applications for DoL orders – which authorise the deprivation of a child’s liberty in an unregulated secure placement – vastly outnumber applications to place children in registered secure accommodation. There is severe shortage of places in secure children’s homes, with around 50 children waiting for a place on any given day.

Who made the applications?

Most applications were made by local authorities (290). 1 application was made by a hospital.

The most applications were made by local authorities in London (22%). Local authorities in the South East, North West and Midlands each made up 16% of total applications, followed by the North West (14%). The remaining applications were split between the South West (11%) and Wales (3%).

This compares to data collected by the FJO, from July 2022 to June 2023, which showed that just over a fifth (21.2%) of all applications were made by local authorities in the North West of England, followed by 16.8% of applications from local authorities in London, and 11.8% from local authorities in the South East. Due to differences in how the regions have been defined, data is not directly comparable.  

What do we know about the children involved?

Over half of children (59%) were aged between 13-15 years, 31% were aged between 16 and 18, and 11% were 12 or under (see Figure 3). Data previously published by the FJO has shown that the majority of children subject to DoLs orders were 15 and above.

Just over half of all children were female (53%) and 47% were male (see Figure 4).

The MoJ data release does not tell us why the application was made, the ethnicity of children subject to applications, or whether a DoL order was made.

For further information about the needs and characteristics of children subject to DoLs applications, see here.