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 58.

    57. It is possible for them both to be victims. The world is no where near as black and white as you would like it to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.


    "Yes these children are criminals BUT they are also victims"

    No, the innocent people they offend against are victims . Attempting to justify criminal behaviour is one of the main reasons for reoffending .

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    1989 children act BIOC has been used to deny access of children to thier fathers on an indsutrial scale. Bcos of the feminist agenda that fathers are axe wilding mass murderer,rapist and peado (guilt by association).

    yet when kids r taken in care the "state" apparatus does not look after then what a parodox

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Just a hundred years ago we threw them in the dungeons of Newgate Prison before hanging them or deporting them (if they were still alive). Fact.
    Today we bemoan that their hotel (sorry prison) is a little too far from home. Well they're only there for a few weeks or months, unless it's their hundredth violent mugging. My how things have changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    why on earth would any young lad/girl who's seen his/her mother drink herself into a stupor every night for a decade or been beaten to a pulp by their father, or has been to several different schools and get bullied everywhere he goes for being poor and illiterate, listen to any holier than thou, textbook educated, no life experience, middle class, ford focus driving busybody.
    time to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    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 its stupid enough to believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The inspectorate took 3000 offenders, cherry-picked the 60 'worst case' individuals and cited 3 extreme examples of poor placement. Giving an overwhelmingly false picture of what is really happening.

    What these yobs need, is processing in a much more productive manner - moving where they can no longer be a burden on society and precious resources - into the ARMY and away from our neighborhoods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I disagree, it is all youths who commit crime are failing society. It is disgusting that others are being blamed for their deliberate actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Secret Courts, hidden "evidence" Lies and Deceit and the need to achieve targets by the SS to obtain huge bonus payments are the shame and disgrace why children are in care.

    Victoria Climbe
    Baby Peter

    Both were under care orders, the LEGAL Guardians at the time of there deaths were the COURTS not the Carers who killed them.

    The failure was the SS who failed to care!

    THAT is the failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The 'do gooders/PC brigade' in SS and charities have taken over. Even with dogs. Last week i saw a couple turned down for dog adoption for only having a fence 5ft high, another declined because they had teenage kids, another because they already had a dog. It's nonsense. SS needs a real shake up. Just once I would like to hear about a SS success, rather than a long list of SS 'failures'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Judging by the scores received by some postings, there are many do-gooders out their 'doing their bit'; perhaps the social workers are in the office.

    Would suggest that right-minded folk do their bit also and remove some of the negative ratings some postings have unfairly received.

    Of course PC has its place... consigned to the dustbin marked 'failure'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Yes these children are criminals BUT they are also victims. I think it is very important to remember that no child is born bad therefore it is quite obvious that certain circumstances lead to their criminal activity. It is these 'circumstances' that need to be looked at and remedied. A stitch in time and all that...

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    This rap/hip hop culture needs to be driven out. Young offenders know right and wrong. That doesn't come from bad parenting or backgrounds.
    It seems cool to talk 'street' and to be a bit of a wannabe gangster.

    Sick of hearing the sob story about a persistent criminal not having a father figure to look up to as an excuse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    It could well be that keeping a youngster in his comfort zone leaves him exposed to influence from the very people who made him offend in the first place. I certainly don't hold with the notion that these kids are either vulnerable or disadvantaged - they've simply taken the easy route, and know how to pull all the right strings with the authorities. What they need is discipline and respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    "Chief inspector of probation Liz Calderbank said: "Why is it so necessary to place so many of these children away from their home?"

    Regrettably, for many of them, removal from the influence of their family and friends is their only chance of leading a worthwhile life .

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I once worked in a housing agency in Kent, and it came to light that one of the tenants had been keeping a horse in their front room. This is 100% fact... now ask yourself what the kids are going to end up like?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I have wondered for long just what the Social Services actually achieve. They pander to these so-called "broken homes" but all that does is encourage these people further along their lives of laziness and havoc.

    We live in a world where decent, law-abiding men and women are working long hours for a pittance whilst these "won't work" waste of spaces are lying in bed on benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    oh tell me why I don't like liberals.

    oh yeah I remember now, because they end up becoming social workers, and ruin peoples heads and lives more than than they were in the first place with their pseudo-intelectual, unproven pop-psychology, agony-aunt theories.
    the type of people these young kids needs to speak to are people from their walk of life who have been where they are and got out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Those who provide housing to troublemakers never come across as very bright. My nuisance neighbour was evicted after 18 months of relentless gathering of details and I was willing to testify against in court. They eventually left because of none payments of rents for the last 18months in breach of tenancy rule. I would have been saved all the trouble if they have done just done their job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    33. Stuart
    Always makes me laugh when I hear people talk about putting them in the army that will sort them out. Will it?
    It makes me laugh too. These are CHILDREN. Its not Somalia... the army doesn't need a load of child soldiers & frankly it isn't funded or manned enough to act as a pseudo-criminal justice system even if such a thing was legal (it isn't)


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