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Criminal Care? · 8 Jul 2019

Know your numbers – using data to monitor and address criminalisation

When you’re dealing with such a serious and difficult issue as the criminalisation of children in residential care, it’s rare that there’s cause to celebrate. I’m happy to report that today is a good news day!

Today we publish our fifth briefing on the programme:- Know Your Numbers: Using data to monitor and address criminalisation. In it, we report that the proportion of children living in a children’s home who have been formally criminalised has fallen from 15 per cent to 10 per cent between 2014 and 2018, with the greatest fall – three per cent – seen over the last year.

This fall in levels of criminalisation is significant and even more so when we consider that the numbers of children in care have been steadily increasing in recent years.

To some extent the figures are likely to reflect recent reductions in the number of child arrests across the entire child population which we monitor and report on annually. At the same time, the last three years has seen substantial concerns raised around the unnecessary criminalisation of children in residential care – in part through the work of the Howard League and this programme – and significant developments in tackling the problem, notably through the government protocol and the requirements introduced by Ofsted in April 2018 for children’s homes to provide details of police contact in its pre-inspection questionnaire.

There is a sense of renewed impetus to tackle the problem and we have spoken to many committed people across the police, youth offending teams, local authorities, children’s homes and other organisations working towards positive change. Credit is also due to the children and young people who have spoken out about and campaigned on the issue.

What gets measured gets done

The briefing also sets out the results of a Freedom of Information request we sent to all 43 police forces in England and Wales. We got responses from 26 forces, who told us about nearly 23,000 call-outs to children’s homes in 2018. The briefing looks at the reasons for these call-outs and the need for forces to improve their data collection, analysis and monitoring to reduce unnecessary criminalisation and improve safeguarding responses to children who are at risk of exploitation and preventable criminalisation.

Our briefing on best practice in policing showed how West Mercia and Dorset Police have used data to successfully tackle unnecessary call-outs in their areas. This briefing looks at how Durham Police have utilised different types of data available within the force to prevent unnecessary criminalisation and safeguard children. Their examples show how essential it is for forces to be collecting and analysing data related to children’s homes. What gets measured gets done. It’s a cliché but there’s a lot of truth in it and we will continue to push for improvements to police data on call-outs and contact with children’s homes.

Claire Sands

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