Too many children in care – ending up behind bars!

The Social and Employment Committee and our affiliate the Prison Reform Trust submitted a resolution at the annual conference in October 2015 ‘Children in care and keeping them out of trouble’, calling on the government to be a good parent to children in care; this was passed unanimously. Children are in care for many reasons, often due to poor parenting and abuse. They have suffered enough, being separated from siblings, moving frequently, and living a long distance from family and friends – they deserve better.

The Prison Reform Trust have now produced an independent review of children in care in the justice system, ‘In Care, Out of Trouble’ chaired by Lord Laming. The life chances of children in care can be transformed by keeping them out of the criminal justice system. Although most children in care do not get into trouble with the law, the review found that up to half of all children in custody have been in care at some point. This is despite fewer than 1% of all children in England and 2% in Wales being in care. This is a tragic waste of young lives which must be addressed if all children in care are to get the best start in life.

Informed by an expert advisory panel, which received over 220 submissions, considered written and oral evidence, made visits and conducted a survey of local authorities across England and Wales, the report sets out clear practical steps on how the good practice identified in the review can become standard practice across England and Wales.

The review calls for a coherent programme of reform led from the top of Government, to help improve the chances of children in care and avoid them being drawn into the criminal justice system.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in the Queen’s Speech that he wishes to improve the situation for children in care and care leavers, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Penal Affairs convened to hear Lord Laming speak on the findings and recommendations of the review, and how these should ensure that children in care have better outcomes in the future. The PRT and NCWGB attended this meeting.