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Supporting children from custody into the community

A step by step guide

The legal team at the Howard League has provided legal advice and representation to hundreds of children leaving custody with nowhere to go.

Children tell the Howard League that release from custody is often the most difficult part of the criminal justice journey. It is one of the most important steps in breaking the cycle of reoffending and supporting children to achieve their potential. The law is clear: no child should be left without appropriate accommodation and support. Yet the Howard League is aware that there are still far too many children who have no idea where they will live before release from custody and some who spend extra time in custody simply because they have nowhere suitable to live.

This guide has been written to empower staff in custody to support children’s positive reintegration into the community, although other professionals will also benefit from it. It has been designed to help staff in custody to use the law protecting children’s rights to ensure that children leave custody at the earliest opportunity with the support they need. A roof over a child’s head is not sufficient to reintegrate a child into the community, but an address is essential to enable planning to meet a child’s needs for education, leisure, health and other important networks of support. The guide aims to help supporting adults to:

  • know when accommodation and support plans need to be in place;
  • take steps to ensure relevant professionals are on notice of earliest possible release dates;
  • understand children’s legal right to support on release from custody; and
  • understand when and how children can be supported to access independent legal advice and representation if there are concerns about reintegration planning.

Each section includes an aim, the context, relevant law/guidance and action required to actively facilitate a child’s reintegration into the community. 

This guide has been designed by the Howard League for Penal Reform’s legal service which provides free and confidential information to professionals and direct advice and representation to children. In developing this guide, the Howard League has drawn on the charity’s legal work, as well as the views of over 100 staff working in secure establishments and almost 100 children across the secure estate over a two-year period.

Download the guide

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