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Criminal Care? · 27 Feb 2020

Latest data shows significant reductions in criminalisation of children in residential care in 2018/19

It was with some trepidation that we opened the response to our latest Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education asking for data on the numbers of children criminalised whilst in residential care in the year ending 31 March 2019. We were delighted – and relieved! – to see that the progress that had been made in the preceding year had continued and that there had been another very significant reduction in the levels of criminalisation for that year.

In 2014, just before we started this programme, 610 children – 15 per cent of those living in residential care – were criminalised; in 2019, this number had fallen to 370, equating to seven per cent of children in children’s homes. This is particularly significant given that, as the table below shows, the numbers of children living in children’s homes who have been looked after continuously for more than 12 months has risen by more than 20 per cent over that period.

It’s important to note (as mentioned above) that this data only includes children who have been in care for twelve months or more. Around half the children who come into care are looked-after for less than twelve months; we have no data on the levels of criminalisation experienced by this group.

Year ending … Number of children looked after continuously for at least 12 months Number of children formally criminalised during the year Percentage formally criminalised during the year
31 March 2014 4,050 610 15
31 March 2015 4,200 580 14
31 March 2016 4,300 580 13
31 March 2017 4,470 560 13
31 March 2018 4,690 470 10
31 March 2019 4,980 370 7

We like to think that our programme of work has contributed to this progress. Credit is certainly due to the concerted efforts of the police, Ofsted and some children’s homes and local authorities to address the issue. The Department for Education’s National protocol to reduce the unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers has also played an important part in highlighting the problem and providing principles and guidance for professionals trying to tackle it.

Great news then and we’re celebrating today! We can’t rest on our laurels though. We know it’s vital that we keep up the focus and pressure. It’s too easy for the results achieved to start falling away when the spotlight is taken off a problem. We need to embed work being done to prevent criminalisation and we want to get to a point where no child in residential care is unnecessarily criminalised.

Claire Sands


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