Submission to the Commission on Young Lives’ Call for Evidence
30 November 2021
“The Howard League welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Commission on Young Lives’ Call for Evidence. In its legal and policy work, the Howard League has spoken to many young people who did not feel safe or loved in care. The care system does not prevent unnecessary criminalisation and fails to meet the needs of children who are in trouble with the law.
“Black children experience “adultification” in the care and criminal justice systems and are less likely to have been supported by early help services.
“Over the past five years, work by the Howard League and others has driven down the number of children living in children’s homes who are unnecessarily criminalised. However, children in residential care are still disproportionately drawn into the criminal justice system.
“In its legal and policy work, the Howard League has found that children in residential care are especially vulnerable to exploitation. The Howard League still sees cases where children are blamed and penalised for their own exploitation and are perceived as placing themselves at risk.
“If a child’s corporate parent fails to protect them from exploiters, it teaches the child that they cannot rely on professionals to keep them safe. Some children’s offending histories can be understood as an attempt to instead protect themselves.
“Howard League lawyers often find that children who are sent to prison do not receive their social care entitlements. Some social workers wrongly close children’s cases following sentence, even though they are entitled to longer term support as care leavers.
“The shortage of suitable care placements is especially acute for children in the criminal justice system, who are often othered and are not recognised as children in need of social care support. In some cases, Howard League lawyers are told that the local authority has contacted hundreds of providers, all of whom have refused to take a particular child.
“There is often insufficient planning for children leaving prison. If a placement is only found at the last minute, professionals cannot arrange mental health support and education in the community. The rush to find a placement also leads to children being placed in deeply inappropriate accommodation, including caravans and barges.”