Laming to lead review of offending by children in care

23 Jun 15

Lord Laming is to chair an independent review considering why looked-after children are over-represented in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

The review, which has been established by the Prison Reform Trust, will bring forward representations on how this over-representation can best be tackled.

A survey of 15- to 18-year-olds in young offender institutions found that a third of boys and almost two-thirds (61%) of girls had spent time in local authority care. This is despite fewer than 1% of all children in England being in care.

According to the Prison Reform Trust, looked-after children between 10 and 17 are more than five times as likely to be convicted or subject to a final warning or reprimand.

Laming, who chaired the 2001 public inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié in Haringey, said: “It is a huge step for the state to assume the parenting of a child or young person. With that comes the responsibility to provide stability, security and hope for the future.

“Fewer than 1% of children and young people are committed to the care of local authorities, yet a third of boys and 61% of girls in custody are, or have been in care. We cannot stand by and allow wasted opportunities to result in wasted later lives. We are determined to ensure this review makes practical recommendations to enable key services to work together to help children in care transform their life chances and stay out of trouble.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, added: “There is a depressing route from care to custody which can, and must, be stopped. We need to listen to children in care about how they got drawn into trouble and hear their views on ways to get out of it.”

The review team is calling for evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including children and young people who have been in care and have been in trouble, their families as well as social care, police and youth offending profession.

The group’s first meeting will take place in the House of Lords on June 25 and will be chaired by Laming.

Lizzie Wills, a spokeswoman for the Children Services Development Group, an alliance of independent providers of care and specialist education to children with complex needs, welcomed the review.

She said: “Children need stability in order to feel safe and flourish, and getting placements right first time is one important way to improve outcomes. CSDG is concerned that local authorities continue to commission placements based on short-term affordability rather than the service that best meets the child’s need. This invariably leads to multiple failed placements and further emotional upheaval.”

The CSDG said local authorities needed multi-year budgets to encourage early intervention, while foster carers should be adequately funded and supported.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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