Secure welfare service

This service description provides information regarding the role of secure welfare services (SWS).

Document ID number 2722, version 3, 4 July 2018.


See procedure Secure welfare service placement for tasks that must be undertaken when considering or making a placement in a secure welfare service.

Young people in child protection may place themselves at risk of such serious harm that they require a highly structured, secure and safe environment for a brief period of time. At these times, a area operations manager/assistant directoror the Children’s Court, depending upon the legal status of the young person, may make a decision to place them at a secure welfare service.

Service description

Secure welfare service form part of a continuum of strengthened care and protection services for child protection clients (10 to 17 years) who are at a substantial and immediate risk of harm.

Placement at a secure welfare service is one response option within the statutory protection and care system for children who need a highly structured setting during a significant crisis. This service is considered an option of last resort, where containment is deemed necessary, and when the broader protection and care network cannot manage or reduce the risks to the child. As a secure welfare service is a secure facility, placement at a secure welfare service is the most extreme form of protective intervention and all other options must be explored first and relevant human rights considered.

A child subject to a family reunification, care by Secretary or long-term care order may be placed at a secure welfare service for a period not exceeding 21 days if the Secretary or the court (if the child or young person is subject to an interim accommodation order) is satisfied that there is a substantial and immediate risk of harm. In exceptional circumstances, the period at a SWS may be extended for one further period not exceeding 21 days. The intent of the legislation is to use this placement only when children or young people are at extreme risk and existing community services cannot manage the risk. Lack of adequate accommodation is not by itself a sufficient reason for placing a child at a secure welfare service.

The secure welfare service is a specialist state-wide service located in the West Division. It provides two 10-bed gender specific residential units that are staffed on a rostered 24 hour 'stand up' model.

Admission to a secure welfare service is likely to be precipitated by a significant crisis in a child or young person's life. The aim of the secure welfare service is to keep the child or young person safe whilst a suitable case plan is established to reduce the risk of harm and return the child or young person to the community as soon as possible in a safe and planned way.

Placement at a secure welfare service can occur through an administrative decision for children subject to a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order or a long-term care order or via judicial order on an interim accommodation order. As with all administrative decisions, administrative review procedures (internal review of decision or VCAT review) are available in relation to the decision to place a child at, or exit a child from, a secure welfare service. Young people and their parents must be informed of the right to apply for review of a decision. See procedure Internal review of decision for tasks that must be undertaken.

Placement of Aboriginal young people

Consultation with ACSASS is to be sought where placement at a secure welfare service is being considered for an Aboriginal child or young person. Where possible consultation is to occur prior to the relevant authorisation for admission to secure welfare being sought. See Responding to Aboriginal children - advice.

Authority to place

A 'reside as directed' condition does not permit placement in a secure welfare service without returning to court.

Secure Welfare Transport Service

See Secure welfare services transport - advice for information regarding this service.