Skip Content

While you’re here, can you help support our work by making a donation? We are an independent charity and rely on donations to continue our work for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. Please help us secure our future by donating and adding your voice to our movement for change.

Donate close-circle

Criminal Care? · 4 May 2018

Scottish experiences of children criminalised in residential care

We were up in Scotland last week, presenting the findings from our research and taking part in a roundtable discussion with representatives from Police Scotland, the Scottish Children’s Reporter, the Scottish Care Inspectorate, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, academics and third sector organisations.

The event was organised by the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) at the University of Strathclyde to tie in with the launch of their report  Responding to Offending in Residential Childcare-Next steps.

The report builds on research CYCJ had undertaken in children’s homes in four local authorities; it reflects on those findings and considers how change might be implemented at a national level.

Like England and Wales, there is a serious problem in Scotland around the unnecessary criminalisation of children living in residential care.

However, lack of data – there is no data being collected or published around these issues at the moment in Scotland – and focused research has meant that it has been impossible to address the problem at a national level.

The work being done by the CYCJ is absolutely vital for shedding light and finding solutions.

Like England and Wales, there is a serious problem in Scotland around the unnecessary criminalisation of children living in residential care.

The residential sector in Scotland is markedly different to that of England in that the vast majority of homes are still owned and run by local authorities.

Colleagues estimated that less than 5 per cent of children’s homes in Scotland are privately owned; in England, nearly three-quarters of children’s homes are run by private companies in order to make a profit.

This seems to make a difference in terms of the levels of involvement and co-operation between homes and social services and in the opportunities for close multi-agency working.

The fact that children are less likely to be placed far from home and their home local authority in Scotland also seems to be helpful, for example, in establishing and maintaining relationships and accessing services.

In spite of this, it was clear that many of the factors contributing to the unnecessary criminalisation of children in residential care in England and Wales are also an issue in Scotland.

A colleague who works on behalf of care leavers said that all too often he encountered disbelief and scorn when he told people that the police were being called out too frequently

A colleague who works on behalf of care leavers thanked us for highlighting the extent of inappropriate call-outs to the police; he said that all too often he encountered disbelief and scorn when he told people that the police were being called out too frequently for behaviour that a parent would not have called the police over.

As in England and Wales, there are issues around the workforce in terms of qualifications, training and pay. The CYCJ research, which has been focused on the views and experiences of staff, found also that children’s homes staff often feel unsupported and ill-equipped to deal with the challenges they face in working with very vulnerable children. These findings echo what we have heard.

We believe that these problems are a key factor in the disproportionate and unnecessary criminalisation of children in residential homes. We will be exploring them in more detail in our forthcoming report on what a good children’s home should look like.

For more information about CYCJ’s research on the criminalisation of children in residential care click here.

Claire Sands

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Join us

    Add your voice to our movement for change. Every voice counts and we hope that you will add yours.

    Join us today
  • Support our work

    Everything we do is focused on achieving less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison. We need you to act now for penal reform.

    Ways to support