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Criminal Care? · 3 Jun 2020

New ‘Children in care and care leavers’ category announced for Howard League Community Awards 2020

The Howard League runs an annual Community Awards programme to recognise community projects that are encouraging desistance from crime and transforming lives for the better. Since 2017, we have included a category to celebrate work being done to reduce the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Over the previous three years awards and commendations have been made to: North Lincolnshire Children in Care Partnership (Humberside Police and North Lincolnshire Council) (2019); Sunderland Youth Offending Team and Northumbria Police’s Together for Children project (2019); the Caldecott Foundation’s Engage project (2018); Scotland’s Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice’s Responding to offending in residential children’s care next steps project (2018); and the Pan-Dorset Children in Care Protocol (2017).

Since our own residential care project began in 2015, there has been a very significant reduction in the proportions of children in residential care who have been criminalised from 15 per cent in year ending 31 March 2014 to seven per cent in the year ending 31 March 2019 (see our February 2020 blog for more detail about this). This reduction has been achieved thanks to renewed profile of the issue and the combined efforts of professionals across a wide range of agencies all over the country.

In order to recognise the range and diversity of initiatives, we are introducing a new awards category in 2020 – ‘Children in care and care leavers’. This new category will replace the previous one which was only open to projects working with children under the age of 18 living in residential care.

The newly expanded award will recognise work being done across sectors to: understand and highlight the factors leading to the over-representation of children in care and care leavers in the criminal justice system; prevent criminalisation of this group of children and young people; and/or provide support to children in care, and/or care-experienced young people aged 25 years or under, who have been involved with the criminal justice system with a view to preventing further criminalisation.

Entries are encouraged from the police; youth offending teams; children’s homes and children’s social care; academics; and third sector organisations in order to highlight the range of work being done in England and Wales and to encourage multi-agency approaches to tackling this problem.

These awards also welcome nominations from those working primarily on missing episodes and child criminal exploitation where initiatives have a focus on preventing the criminalisation of children in care and care leavers affected by these issues.

The projects nominated are required to be at least one-year-old and need to meet one of the following criteria:

  • divert first time entrants away from the criminal justice system
  • divert individuals away from courts and provide alternatives to sentencing
  • enhance understanding of the factors contributing to the over-representation of children in care and care leavers in the criminal justice system
  • offer support to children in care and care leavers up to the age of 25 who have already had contact with the criminal justice system with a view to preventing further criminalisation.

Projects also need to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • work with children and care leavers
  • prevent the criminalisation of this group of children and young people
  • provide support to children in care, and/or care-experienced young people who have been involved with the criminal justice system
  • are rehabilitative and help to prevent future offending
  • identify risk and offer a package of support and interventions at the earliest possible stage
  • offer a programme tailored to individual needs
  • service users are involved in shaping the work and in decisions affecting them
  • have strong partnerships in place and a commitment to liaison with other services
  • work collaboratively with the local community
  • use a system to evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of the programme
  • are cost effective.

More details and the nomination form are available on the Awards web page. There’s also a great blog written by the Chair of the judging panel and Trustee of the Howard League, Gerry Marshall, which talks about how inspiring and influential the awards have been in promoting good practice and shining a spotlight on areas which require more attention.

We want to hear about outstanding projects working up and down the country.  Why not enter now and let us know about your excellent work or nominate a project you think we should be considering for their best practice.  The deadline for nominations is 5pm Tuesday 21 July 2020. Winners will be announced on 20 October 2020. More details about the awards ceremony to follow!

Claire Sands and Catryn Yousefi

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