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 178.

    The care system fails the young STOP What of all those 18 year olds leaving care with absolutely nowhere to go and having to live on the street - the Michelle Conroys of our wonderfully accepting and welcoming state. The most utterly stupid bit of bureaucracy I've come across. We can do nothing for these people because there isn't a procedure for it. Damned useless care system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    And what are the parents doing about it? Other than leaving their responsibilities to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    We appear to be pandering to a group of people who set out to cause havoc and then blame the system. Soft punishments, failure to recognise and accept responsibility, always looking to blame someone else, all to easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Neutering is known to be highly effective in reducung agression, it will stop them reproducing and there would be a massive motivation to avoid having it done.
    The proceedure is also very cost effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.


    How will 'neutering' criminals solve crime?

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I have the solution, let's neuter persistent offenders, that should concentrate their minds and set them on the straight and narrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    That may feel like the right thing to do, but it doesn't mend the problems in the care system or the young lives wrecked by the bad parenting and subsequent failures of the system that is supposed to help them does it?

    Where they learn how to be institulionalised rather than how properly functioning family units work? LA care homes seem to have that effect now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Thats right, lets just all think of the criminals. Never mind the victims, oh no....typical lefty land...couldn't care a less about victims of crime, so long as the poor diddums are looked after.

    Give me strength.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    I would so agree with the comments about the 'low aspirations' that some workers on Youth Offending Teams have for these young people. There is definitely a culture of 'going through the motions' with some of those I have come into contact with professionally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    'My point is, jobs = community = pride = less anti-social behavior and crime'

    Agreed - it's how we get there we will probably disagree on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    140 Hurrah for the brainless "it’s not their fault/give 'em a free house/ and free money 'em" brigade. Before you come marching with your sneering, smug, holier than thou lazy ill-thought-through prejudices try finding out how the current failing “approaches” are controlled by vested interests keen to preserve their lovely tax grants, massive pensions: then lobby hard for them to be removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Many of the decent, hard working people on estates are thoroughly fed up with the patronising attitudes of the "Bleeding Heart Mob". those who sit in ivory towers and pontificate from a distance are all too often those who do not have to put up with anti social neighbours with hoards of uncontrolled children who are embryonic gang members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.


    My point is, jobs = community = pride = less anti-social behavior and crime. Blair, Cameron etc are all cut from the same cloth and society suffers because of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    'If only it was that simple, we would sort it out in a flash, wouldn't we'

    I'm not saying it's simple - I'm saying that by just throwing money at depravated urban areas is not the answer - a point which is proven.

    Blair didn't do too bad either at ruining quite a few areas with his policies ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.


    If only it was that simple, we would sort it out in a flash, wouldn't we.

    As an example the mining communites Thatcher 'trashed' which were previously drug and crime free are now drug/crime ridden cesspits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    I think we have to examine why there is high unemployment on some estates, for many it simply is not worth climbing out of bed to go to a poorly paid job, for others they are unemployable, and for others it is a way of life to be a parasite on Society and procreate.
    Yes persons wishing to reproduce should sit an aptitude test, they must understand that children are an enormous responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    'Of course housing estate problems aren't connected to lack of jobs/social mobility and poverty are they...'

    Depends on your mindset and attitude - if you are poor/jobless/both and 'given' a nice new house to live in would you want to trash it and the surrounding area or look after it?

    For some the answer is trash it and blame society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Correction. Yes the well off do live on estates, ones that used to be nice until Labour forced developers to have at least 30% social houses on any new estates. The one where I moved to was built wonderfully, with walks & gazebos to rest. Strange all the gazebos were burnt down & the culprits (YO's) came from the 30%. They drag everything around them down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    This is just typical of the blame culture we have in UK.
    Blame lack of a father figure or a rough estate as per usual. Excuses excuses. Its clearly a cultural difference that is the problem here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I don’t buy into this victim culture. I grew up with many kids from the care system. Whilst some where clearly in the system through no fault of their own, others cleary where. Consequently I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who has to deal with or care for the small proportion of seriously antisocial, criminal and quite nasty children and adolescents who end up in the system.


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