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 138.

    God save us from the "it's always someone else's fault" society. Mind you, maybe we shouldn't blame them - after all it's not their fault, it's someone elses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    We are always hearing about the poor 'children' who commit robbery, steal cars, mug., etc., etc. and how society should help them. I say what about the poor victims who have no choice in the matter, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Society doesn't seem to care one bit about them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Why are the offenders seen as the victims here?

    you can polish a t*rd. Wrong'uns will be be wrong'uns

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Re: trinity enigma: No they are not criminals, they are children. Re: Lemog; Self piteous narcissistic nonesense! I don't care how you feel. Do your job properly or go away. Stop blaming others and take responsibility. Give me your boss's number, I will have your job with pleasure

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    @ ravenmorpheus2k 121 i did read the article and juliet lyons conclusion was this...

    And again - they are young offenders. Young criminals.

    They make a choice to be such.

    Why should they be given preferential treatment when law abiding people have to fend for themselves.

    We have 2.5+ million unemployed - where is all the help for them to get their lives turned around?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    119. swerdna -What you describe is currently offered and practiced in all Scottish jails, and it still doesn't work.The programs are offered lip service by inmates and 20yr old psychologists are easily hoodwinked and have no life experience.Prisoners should all be held until they are deemed no further risk, as bad behavior is excused by a list of mental issues.They are still dangerous when Libd

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    and what if that young offender is 10 years of age?

    Some of these kids have experienced 'discipline' in the form of a fist or belt, from a very young age. Won't do them any harm, I suppose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    @ ravenmorpheus2k 121 i did read the article and juliet lyons conclusion was this "This could be put right. We are not talking about vast numbers of children - we are talking about the most vulnerable children."

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Fear of intervention is what leads to these hopeless cases. When actions have no apparent consequences then how can you stop people making those actions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    @gerald 123 Yet we happily let our government throw money at failing banks, our society needs to sit down and have a long hard think about where our priorities lie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    "Care" System what misnomer! When these misguided do-gooders swoop in the early hours of the morning and wrench screaming children away from their parents, is it any wonder that the hideous trauma leads to problems like drinking, drugs, anti-social behaviour, prostitution and crime. No wonder, as BarryP said here, many people see being taken into care as passport to a life of underachievement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    The real victims in all this are the people who have been robbed, assaulted and otherwise affected by these "children". They should all be put in an old fashioned borstal until they learn not to commit crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The chaotic lifestyle of the young people in the system is to blame,when a decision has been made to remove them from the family home,that should be it.Allow the kids to settle with a foster family or in a home with staff they can form positive relationships with.Don't keep sending them back to the Toxic Home environment. Care to Custodial is the current route with the present system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    (cont)... We adopted my brother when i was 11 and he has two brothers that were sent to a different family.
    They were all given the same opportunities and they chose a life of crime and my brother didn't (he is a soldier). The system does work. If someone does not want help then you can't help them. When will people start looking at the parents of the children? stop blaming the State

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    For every one of these kids there is a string of victims who get no help what so ever.
    I know where I would rather the available resources went between the old lady who had been punched from behind, knocked over and then robbed or the person/people who did it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Issues like this and prisons,classrooms,hospitals etc etc
    We all know you can go only so far with efficiency drives,technology,etc
    If you don't have decent wages to attract and retain the well qualified,experienced staff in the correct numbers/ratio's to deliver the service,the service will simply not be effective,why does this ever come as a surprise when we view outcomes!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    These children are NOT victims unless they are victims of not being dealt with early enough. Discipline is the answer, from the cradle. I grew up in the 50s and 60s and was disciplined if I deserved it, and so did my son when he was growing up. It didn't hurt us. So many children grow up with no manners and behave disgracefully and until that changes we will never have a safe society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    ...the kids needing help are demonized...

    You do realise this article is about young offenders? Perhaps if they didn't offend they wouldn't be demonised.

    Why should criminals not be demonised (and as a result end up getting ahead in life) when law abiding people can't get ahead in life?!

    Don't do the crime, don't end up being demonised. It's that simple.

  • Comment number 120.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    The system of punishing offenders must not only include deterrent sentences. They often do not work.
    All offenders should be offered rehabilitation courses. These could include education, vocational training, drug rehab and psychological help. Support should be available on release.
    The problem is, this country is skint. How many voters will agree a tax increase or further cuts to pay for this?


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