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Criminal Care? · 18 Oct 2018

Progress being made in Surrey

We’re always pleased to be invited to speak about the programme and last week we were in Leatherhead at the invitation of Surrey County Council.

The county has seen some very progressive work in reducing the criminalisation of children in residential care, notably its involvement in the development of the South East Protocol to reduce offending and the criminalisation of children in care.

This protocol has been used as a template by other areas and it has informed the drafting of a National Protocol which we hope the Department for Education will be launching shortly.

Concern and commitment to helping children in care was very evident

We were greeted by a roomful of professionals from a range of agencies across Surrey including council staff, police, local authority children’s homes staff and children in care and leaving care ambassadors. The concern and commitment to helping children in care was very evident. The productive relationships between agencies was also apparent; people knew each other, they were friendly and, as we found out during the course of the group discussion, they were on the same page about protecting children from unnecessary criminalisation. The conversation felt open, supportive and reflective.

The question of police contact with children living in homes was raised and our assertion that the police should stay out of children’s homes wherever possible was challenged, as it often is by multi-agency groups (see our good practice in policing briefing for more detail on this). An open-minded discussion around the issues was, rather fittingly, followed by a short film reviewing the work of a very dedicated and popular local police officer who had been responsible for working with local children’s homes and who had recently left the area for a new job.

There was no representative from the private children’s homes sector in the room and we were told of difficulties engaging with the owners of private homes in the area. We frequently hear that agencies find it easier to establish relationships with local authority-run children’s homes than those owned by private providers. With three quarters of children’s homes now owned by private companies and/or individuals it is vital that private providers engage in the kind of positive multi-agency working we saw in Surrey last week.

Claire Sands

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