Children’s services failing young people, report claims

According to a new report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, children’s homes regularly resort to involving police instead of offering teenagers support.

The study collected data from numerous police forces across England and Wales and found that 13-15 year-olds living in children’s care homes were 20 times more likely to be criminalised than children from conventional families, and six times more likely than children in other forms of care placement.

The charity claimed there was a ‘systemic problem’ in some care homes where police involvement had become the default option. The report also cited official statistics which showed around four per cent of children aged 10-12 had been criminalised, rising to over 19 per cent among children aged 13-15.

Around 75 per cent of England’s 1760 children’s homes are run by private sector companies. The report claimed a ‘lack of transparency, particularly in relation to private providers, has meant that homes are unaccountable, bad practices are hidden and children suffer’.

The data recorded almost 6,000 incidents involving care homes reported to the West Mercia Police and West Midlands Police between 2012-2015.

The report said police believed they were ‘picking up the pieces of a ‘social care deficit’, and that children were being pushed into the criminal justice process rather than receiving the support they needed from local authorities and children’s homes’.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These children have been taken into care because they are in dire need and their parents cannot, or will not, look after them.

“They are wonderful young people who have had a really bad start in life. They deserve every chance to flourish. Private companies, charities and local authorities that are paid a fortune by the taxpayer should give these children what they need and deserve.”