This ADR UK-funded study using linked Ministry of Justice and Department for education data is the largest analysis of care experience, ethnicity and youth justice involvement in England to date. The analysis included 2.3 million children born between 1996 and 1999 who were recorded in an educational census at age 10 (the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility in England and Wales).
• The research found that one in three children born between 1996 and 1999 who had experience of the care system received a youth justice caution or conviction between the ages of 10 and 17, compared with just 4% of those without experience of care. This figure was even higher for some ethnic groups. For example, 50% of Gypsy/Roma and 39% of Black Caribbean care-experienced children received a youth justice caution or conviction.
• Care-experienced children who had youth justice involvement typically received 4 youth justice cautions or convictions, compared to one caution or conviction for children who had not been in care. Care-experienced children from Black and Mixed ethnicity backgrounds typically received 5 youth justice cautions or convictions.
• Of all children in the study, custodial sentences were almost twice as common among Black and Mixed ethnicity care-experienced children compared to White care-experienced children. The study found that 5% of White children who’d been in care received a custodial sentence – with 9% of Black and Mixed ethnicity children who’d been in care sentenced to custody.
The study contextualises findings within the wider literature, including research on unnecessary criminalisation and disproportionality in relation to ethnicity. In doing so, it shifts our perspective from individualised explanations to structural ones.
Practitioners may find this research helpful when making any representations to the police or prosecution to prevent the criminalisation of a care experienced child. See also YJLC guide Dare to Care: Representing Care Experienced Young People
Written by Dr Katie Hunter, Professor Brian Francis and Dr Claire Fitzpatrick