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Criminal Care? · 17 Mar 2021

Is this good enough for my child?

Is this good enough for my child? is a question at the heart of a new protocol developed for London on reducing the criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers. As the protocol elucidates, professionals “should apply the same criteria and level of care to their interactions with children and young people who are, or have been, in care, as they would to their own care”.

For workers in a children’s home, that should provide a clear steer that calling the police in response to children’s behaviour should be an absolute last resort. And for the police responding to a callout from a children’s home, the question is also one which pushes decisions away from arrest and towards more sensible and positive outcomes.

The protocol has been developed by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), with input from a range of key stakeholders such as the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Youth Justice Board, and the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services.

For children’s homes, calling the police should be an absolute last resort

The Howard League was also part of the advisory group helping to provide feedback on the development of this document, which reflects several lessons from our own work on ending the criminalisation of children in residential care. We have been involved in this initiative from the very beginning, when the charity Drive Forward decided to campaign on these issues in London and influence City Hall to take action.

We look forward to seeing what impact this protocol has and efforts are already underway to disseminate the document and monitor activity such as police callouts to children’s homes.

On the same day this protocol was published in London, the Howard League held an In Conversation virtual event with Anne Longfield OBE, the former Children’s Commissioner for England. You can watch the event again here, where Anne echoes some of our concerns about the criminalisation of children in residential care.

At one point the audience learns that the one question Anne would ask children she encountered as Children’s Commissioner, particularly (but not exclusively) in secure institutions, was “are they kind?” And that is one way of reframing this post’s opening question from a child’s point of view.

Andrew Neilson




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