Care system fails young offenders - report

Anonymous young people in hoods One 16-year-old boy had been moved 31 times since the age of three

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Children in care in England and Wales who have been in trouble with the law are being failed by youth offending teams, says an inspection report.

The Inspectorate of Probation raised concerns about children placed far from home, and some youth offending team staff who thought little about the emotional impact of being in care.

Its report looked at 60 children, from about 3,000 supervised by the teams.

The Department for Education said plans were being developed to improve care.

The inspectorate, along with education watchdogs Ofsted and Estyn - which inspects standards in education and training in Wales - examined cases involving children who required supervision in order to stop them from committing crimes.

It found about a third of children were placed more than 100 miles away from home, and nearly two-thirds were placed 50 miles away.

Chief inspector of probation Liz Calderbank said: "What we don't do is underestimate the difficulties of dealing with these children and young people, they are some of the most difficult and most damaged within the system.

Start Quote

Sophie-Eliza Grinham

We do this to children and then expect them to grow up into reasonable adults”

End Quote Sophie-Eliza Grinham Former care home resident

"Some of them do need to be placed away from home for their own safety, and some need specialist care as well, and that may be only available in certain locations."

She added: "But from the sample that we looked at of 60 cases, in half of them we saw youth offending teams working very actively to maintain contact with their local families, local environment, so that raises the questions of whether the placement was in the child's best interests."

Regulations required local authorities to allow a child to live near their home, as far as reasonably practicable, the report said.

In one example, a 16-year-old boy had been moved 31 times since coming into care at the age of three, including one placement which lasted less than 24 hours.

Inspectors said one of the "most disappointing" findings was that some youth offending staff gave little thought to the emotional impact on children of being in care and what was needed to address their problems.

Basic checks were not made when placing these "vulnerable and potentially dangerous" children into homes, the report said, adding that examples had been found of sex attackers being placed with abuse victims.

Youth offending teams and and other agencies did not "always work effectively together in the best interests of the children", and poor planning and assessment meant insufficient protection for two-thirds of the children.

A fifth of the children had themselves been a victim of crime while under supervision of the youth offending team, and just over half the children inspected had offended within the care environment.

"What we saw in this inspection really shocked us," said Ms Calderbank. "All of of these things are impacting on their life chances - what we are seeing for these children are very poor outcomes.

"Many of them are growing up and then we fear drifting into the prison service or the mental health system."

'Encourage potential'

Youth offending team workers' aspirations for the children were "depressingly low", she added. The report said many staff had become "desensitised" and were "under-qualified".

A Department for Education spokesman said it was "completely unacceptable" that some local authorities and homes were failing children.

The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon: "There is a well-trodden path from care into custody"

"Children placed far from their homes are extremely vulnerable. It is essential that local authorities responsible for them provide the vital support they need to keep them safe and well and to encourage their potential," he said.

"Three expert groups are currently developing proposals to improve the care provided by children's homes. They are due to report back shortly and we will respond on the action we intend to take in the New Year."

John Merry, vice-chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said there were often good reasons for placing a child in a residence some distance away from their home.

"This could be for their own safety, to break gang affiliation or to access specialist services," he said. "What is clear is that where children are placed out of area there needs to be better communication between all the agencies involved to make sure they receive the care and support they need."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said it was not "altogether surprising that children in the circumstances that the inspectors are describing end up getting into more and more trouble, and quite possibly end up in the prison system.

Asked whether the problems were related to a lack of funding, Ms Lyon said: "I think it's lack of thought actually, and it's lack of leadership by government, both national and local government.

"This could be put right. We are not talking about vast numbers of children - we are talking about the most vulnerable children."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Hip Hop, Gangsta Rap, Dizzee Rascal and that Bling Bling culture shoved down our Youth is to blame.

    The media shape our children, and our culture.

    Days after the London Riots, the media trivialised the riots and likened it to the LA Riots, as a cross atlantic cool americanism.

    This country deserves what the foolish receive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    We shouldn't be providing homes for people who can't provide (financially and emotionally) for themselves and their children. We should instead provide hostel accommodation where whole families can be helped to stand on their own feet. Independent family lives in their own homes should be an incentive, not a hand-washing deliverable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    With the over population of this country (& the world), the increasing reduction is homes, jobs, resources etc... it is with great sadness that people are still allowed to reproduce without any responsibility.
    Radical thinking is needed to stop this. The pandering to the so called 'human right' to have kids needs to stop. The population should be about quality not quantity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Bleeding hearts have not solved this problem. Too many rights, too many agencies involved, all want their say, all want their pay

    The sociologists & social workers with their theories have not delivered in the vast majority of cases

    What these young people really need is something productive to occupy them & give them a sense of worth & self respect (and respect for others). Like the Army

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I would have thought that moving a child away from the source of the trouble may be a good thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Whilst me must help each other, young or old, I am sick and tired of seeing criminals getting ahead of those of us who try to work for a living.

    I keep seeing criminals handed job opportunities and rewards - take Bad Santas on Channel 4 as an example, a bunch of criminals being made famous and rewarded because they've supposedly "turned over a new leaf".

    Meanwhile I'm still unemployed...

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    If you had only seen some of the young children my nephew and niece have fostered and been aware of what they had already suffered at 2 years of age it would make you cry for them.

    The thing that bothers me is that they let the parents of these children keep on breeding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    "the article is written almost makes it seem as young offenders are entitled to be cared for... Neither my family nor I were ever supported by the state and I never offended... "

    Many young offenders will have been brought into a life of no role models, poor discipline, drugs, abuse etc. Yes they deserve a chance of care, and an improved future. Lucky you to have a family which never needed help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    How many times are we going to see children and youngsters being failed by care in this country. More parents and those that know the issues need to be part of the solution, instead of all the degree level social workers that just don't get it. Drug councelling works with ex users, alcohol also, it's about time parents that have seen these issues are involved in the solution, it needs to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Ridiculous BBC article yet again. The criminal is portrayed as the victim and another clarion cry goes out for yet more taxpayer cash. The Guardianistas, apologists and vested interests won't be happy until money is just taken straight from workers wholesale and handed directly to the undeserving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    #4 Why not just go back to hanging kids and save a lot of trouble......

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    In only in situations such as this that you get to really see just how much your government cares about you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    For some teenage kids they have missed out on proper parental guidance, education and Love.

    For these lost souls only a boot-camp style re-educaction process, and stable foster-caring will give them half a chance. Tough Love.

    And we need to hold their parents to account more!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The system is doomed. Essential its trying to mopup the mess from a dysfunctional society.

    If we were serious about this we would be addressing the root causes which boils down to disproportionate levels of wealth resulting in people saying "i don't owe anyone anything i will do what i want"

    I feel sorry for the carers, without enough resource for a 1-2-1 relationship this is impossible

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The way the article is written almost makes it seem as young offenders are entitled to be cared for...

    Neither my family nor I were ever supported by the state and I never offended... Question of teaching responsibility and tougher sentences

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    My heart breaks form these kids. There should be a more realistic approach to adoption and fostering. Better to be placed in a home where god forbid someone should smoke, than languish in childrens homes to be replaced by prison when they are older !

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The system is woefully inadequate in terms of actually caring for kids. In my experience social workers invest too much time & money trying to prove birth parents are bad & not enough on ensuring what is actually in 'the kids best interest'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The care system has no control over the young kids it is charged with looking after because they have the right to walk out of any care facility they want and the staff aren't legally allowed to stop them. Care staff need to have the same rights as parents to show the kids that they care enough to protect them.


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