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 38.

    23 If the State didn't hand out huge sums of cash and free houses for irresponsible spawning no issue. It's a vested interest free for all, lead by Labour, supported by the BBC.
    27 We are paying far too much tax, we don't want to pay for other people's endless failures; enabled by apologism and Labour's vote greed. If you care so much donate some cash the Exchequer, they accept cheques.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Its not the care system that is failing but society in general. Many decent people such as members of UKIP cannot foster or adopt but many unfit people are allowed to have children simply because to prevent them doing so would be against their human rights.

    What a warped society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    19. 'bring back national service'. Oh please !
    (60+ Conservative voter perhaps ?)

    Having gone through mind numbing discipline and control designed to destroy wills and create the 'zombies' (er 'Heroes') required by the military for cannon fodder I think there are better ways. Life skills could be built into the school education system with far less psychological damage and indoctrination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    My Daughter's Partner had 2 children with his wife, they were handed to the SS by her, without telling him. He has been fighting to get them back. There is no reason why he should not have them.

    Other than the SS saying in Court that as he was brought up in Care himself he was not considered a fit parent.

    A lot more to it than this

    But that is a damning self indictment on the SS and care system

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Always makes me laugh when I hear people talk about putting them in the army that will sort them out. Will it? I doubt it very much because you have to tackle the core issue is to why they went off the rails in the first place. Answers from many is always punish them and that is how we treat children in this country, it's time to listen and find out why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    #19: "rediscover a sense of patriotism and national pride which I believe only really still exists in the over 30 generation"

    Speak for yourself, I'm 20 and very patriotic and so are many of my friends. On-topic, what these children need is stability more than anything else, we need to reduce barriers to adoption and fostering so applicants aren't turned down for petty reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Until the Reformers accept that early intervention is normally the best answer the system will fail. Limited resources are wasted on hopeless cases whilst support for the newer and easier to reform offenders is patchy. As a Police sergeant I long considered that 'Care' was an almost certain route to prison, wereas early strong help would have paid dividends.Expensive but it works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Children do not ask to be born - they need our help to stop the vicious cycle into which they are born.
    A society which ignores these children ignores their future - and they are part of the future for all of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The worst elements are encouraged by the authorities. Three brats of the benefit scrounger near us wreak havoc, uncontolled and unsupervised by mother or social workers who are in and out. She gets a 5-bedroomed detached house free and thousands in benefits; they get computers, wide-screen TVs and expensive toys; they're the criminals of the future, will never work or contribute to the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Award the bad and shun the good, exactly what happen when I was at school.

    Only way to get noticed is to do the things people don't want you to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It's not the care system that's failing us - its the greedy, selfish, self-centred voters who whine about 'paying too much tax' and ensure we get saddled with neo-liberal governments for thirty years. We get the society we're prepared to pay for and the message to parties is - we're not paying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    All most of them need is a proper job with a proper wage. Mind you,such things are rarer than snow in Qatar these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    14. HonestMP
    I would have thought that moving a child away from the source of the trouble may be a good thing
    But only if they're being moved to somewhere that will support, educate them etc. Just dumping them on their own 100 miles from home isn't going to produce good results

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Vulnerable people being let down?

    Rich boy George and the rest will be pleased

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I never offended as a kid either, but then again my Mum's boyfriend never put cigs out on my arm as a toddler and my Mum never sent me to school without breakfast and a packed lunch and went out to the pub every evening to leave me to sort out my own tea and wake me up to tell me how she wished she never had me when she came in at 2am. Wonder how I would have turned out if this was my lot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The inevitable consequence of rewarding people who didn't want (and weren't up to parenting) kids for having them, so they could advantage themselves in the Welfare State.

    Reward behaviour = get behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    8/5/11"Why not just go back to hanging kids and save a lot of trouble......" - reductio ad absurdum. Very clever. Sigh, sometimes you just wonder if you wouldn't be better off just handing over the money so you don't have to listen to the holier than thou pontificating. So bored of the "it's not their fault" litany, usually from vested "charitable" interests or another public "worker".

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Social services is too poltically correct. The system actively discriminates against fathers getting involved with children. Children need structure, role models, love and support. Our whole divorce system is a an adversarial battle ground run by lawyers and the court system for their benefit. No wonder children have the odds stacked against them from birth and can make mistakes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    is bringing back national service such a bad idea? it wouldn't have to be compulsory, just if you haven't gone to uni or cant get a job.
    young people would learn practical skills, learn discipline and the value of honor, rediscover a sense of patriotism and national pride which I believe only really still exists in the over 30 generation, and more importantly.............. earn a wage!


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