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Criminal Care? · 25 May 2018

Treatment. Behaviour. Criminalisation.

Yesterday we published a post on our blog by a young man, Solomon, on his experience of being outed by a care home manager. It has received some positive comments and largely positive feedback on social media.

Others, however, have had a slightly different response. Whilst condemning the episode described by Solomon, they have questioned the relevance of the incident to our work on ending the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Of note is that all of the individuals in question work within the care system, some in residential care itself.

One person has suggested the Howard League is looking “to give the impression that residential care is de facto abusive”.

This post is a response to those comments.

To begin with, let me say that the Howard League is certainly not saying residential care is “de facto abusive”. Indeed, over the summer we will be publishing a briefing which looks at what makes for a good children’s home.

As part of that work, we have been visiting children’s homes around the country. We do have concerns about some provision but we are also aware of good homes and of staff doing their best in often difficult circumstances.

There is a clear link between treatment and behaviour.

The factors leading to criminalisation are complex and varied. We explore some of them in this briefing. Many of the posts on this blog turn on the question and I would encourage readers to digest all of them. If you are short on time, this recent post about young people’s experiences in Scotland summarises some of the issues.

One important lesson is the clear link between the treatment of children in residential care and their behaviour, and the link from that to their subsequent criminalisation.

Being forcibly outed by a care home manager is not, I submit, a good way to treat a child. It would not be a shock if such treatment resulted in bad behaviour, poor relationships between staff and children and…yes, the police being called and a child being criminalised.

I could talk about the experiences of trauma that children in care will have experienced. I could talk about how those experiences, and issues such as resulting mental and emotional health problems, can impact on a child’s behaviour. I could talk about how staff in residential care settings should be alert to these issues and treat such children appropriately.

All children should be treated with respect and dignity.

But I shouldn’t really need to. All children, whether they are in the care system or not, need to be cared for. Like any child, a child in the care system should be treated with respect and dignity. Children in residential care also place especial importance on their privacy. None of these things are evident in the story told by Solomon, who was himself criminalised whilst living in the care home he blogged about.

So that is why we published Solomon’s story on our blog about ending the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Andrew Neilson


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