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 118.

    Sometimes unwarranted assumptions are made about youngsters in care. When running the local Army Cadet Force, a police officer turned up as we returned from training for a Duke of Edinborough's Award expedition and tried to arrest one of my cadets for 'absconding' - someone hadn't picked up that he was off camping for the weekend and assumed that he had run away!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    it breaks my heart to read so many ill informed uncaring comments on these have your say forums every day.

    the people trying to help are demonized, the kids needing help are demonized and successive governments fail by implementing short sighted policies to pander for votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Barryp (31) you are right. Early strong discipline is the key. I went to boarding school, an assisted place, and there was very strict discipline so we all knew the boundaries. Step over the line and you were punished in a way that made you think twice about doing it again. We are too soft on the first offence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    i agree with Lemog, as staff are in a lot off cases working with there hands tied.forget the top brass who know very little about the problem and are only intrested in looking good listen to the people on the front line who know what is wrong but it would mean a total change in law to go some way in solving these problems

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I was put into care from the age of 5 and i was adopted at the age of 9. I have a full-time secure job and have done 8 years in the military. I do not have a criminal record and have never been in trouble with the police

    The responsibility also lays with the individual and should not be blamed wholly on the care system.

    We all have a choice in life....

  • Comment number 113.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    No. Their parents have failed them. Repeatedly. And they shouldn't have any more children until they can prove they know how to look after them properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    What about the victims of the crimes that these young offenders carry out? They get very little support, and see the young offender get a soft punishment. There's no excuses for carrying out crimes. All to easy to blame their upbringing or the system. However, they still know what is right and wrong, and choose to go down the path they do. The buck stops with the offenders themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    The care system does not FAIL them. The Carebear leftys that say you cannot punish kids in any way and have to reward bad behaviour are the people and system that fails young offenders. Bring that the right to hit your kids and the Cain did me no harm in the long run.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    It is so sad to see this one sided article from people who aren’t very qualified to speak on it. It would be better to hear the voices of representatives of youth offending teams and children who have grown up in care. These people live with the system, whereas Liz/Juliet make a living out of talking about the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    When I was a little boy I use to look up to adults and think that is a grown-up but when I became a man I quickly realised that was a huge mistake as there are millions of adults out there that have never grown-up they are just children that have grown old. Coz my stuffs better than your stuff, my house is bigger than your house, my cars newer than your car, my number plate spells my name etc ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    To be honest in some ways this could be seen as a marked improvement- they're only been moved 100 miles from home. Compare that to the 'home children' who were taken from childrens homes and moved to all the corners of the empire as an extra workforce and to spread Britishness. Many never even knew their real birthday.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The prison system is hindered by regulations meaning offenders getting out before all issues have been dealt with.The police have a thankless task dealing with the same youngsters and their crime waves, only for courts to give token sentences. I have worked both YO and Adult jails, and you eventually meet all the faces from YOI's in Adult Jails.Once they become a criminal they are locked into syst

  • Comment number 105.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Will people stop blaming the children, no one is born evil, in some cases its mental illness or personality disorders which they cant help, in the rest its neglectful or abusive parents it is the latter which is a far greater blight on our society

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Wow, negatively marked for pointing out the difference between liberalism and socialism (92). I guess some people really are in denial about who they are...

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    98. IR35_SURVIVOR I think it goes far beyond Labour, its a failure across the board to support families and to rehabilitate people. We need a prison system that works, a care system that works, a police force that works and a clearance of people who inhabit top jobs who fail. Have we seen Theresa May, Rotherham social care heads or the Chief constable of areas blighted by abuse stand down?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.


    Divorce shot up in the 80's under Thatcher, which led to a massive influx of kids into state run 'care homes' , exactly what core family values are you referring to? this isn't a new phenomena and it always coincides with the Tories being in government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Crime is like a virus infection. Those who are criminals have most often been victims of crime in the first place. However, again they have the potential of "infecting" others with the same "disease". Quarantine and treatment are both necessary to stop this vicious circle. Neglect of young offenders will accelerate the spiral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Only failed, not abused, tortured and murdered, well that's a start...


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