The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has published its response to the Laming Review on keeping children in care out of trouble.
The Laming Review was established by the Prison Reform Trust and calls for a coherent programme of reform, led from the very top of government, to help improve the life chances of looked after children and prevent future crime (see our legal update here).
The YJB response recognises that children in care are more likely to offend, but that it is difficult to identify which factors contribute to offending, considering the complex relationship between user needs, service design and resource. On a number of occasions, the response notes a distinct lack of evidence and data on the national picture of children in care.
The YJB’s response makes suggestions to mitigate against the risk of children with care experience being drawn into the youth justice system including:
- Seeking greater integration of Local Safeguarding Children’s Board looked-after children and criminal justice subgroups;
- Review of Department for Education counting rules and data collection processes to ensure a more consistent national picture emerges with regards to the needs of all children looked-after by local authorities;
- Consider the development of a bespoke pathway for looked-after children in the youth justice system;
- The introduction of consistent police responses to children’s homes;
- Consistently high quality advocacy and appropriate adult services at the point of arrest to ensure that looked-after children get the same care and support as other children and can therefore make informed decisions about pleas and diversion work;
- Local authorities to undertake a case review for each looked-after children who enters custody to establish reasons and opportunities missed;
- Ofsted inspection frameworks to include a specific focus on preventing the entry of children in the care system/children in need into the youth justice system;
- Directors of Children’s Services should sign-off any decision to place a child out-of-area and inform the Director of Children Services of the host area. For children in the youth justice system, this would include a requirement to involve the YOT in the decision-making process.
Read the full response here.
Importantly, the response notes that most of the disadvantages identified for young people in care impact more acutely on young people in care from black and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds. The YJB notes its lack of knowledge and understanding about the situation of BAME young people and this may be a contributing factor to the poor outcomes of this group of young people.