Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

Kids in care are 'criminalised', warns Manchester expert ahead of police reform review

Kids in care are 'criminalised', warns Manchester expert ahead of police reform review

| By Catherine Teague

A Manchester care worker believes that young people in care are being 'criminalised' after figures revealed that they were five times more likely to end up facing the criminal justice system than regular children.

The Prison Reform Trust recently announced a major review following the statistics, which is being led by cross-bench peer and former social worker Lord Laming and supported by the Care Leaver’s Association in Manchester.

A panel of experts in the field of care services have been selected for evidence gathering and to put forward their recommendations, including the Care Leavers Association, the HM Young Offenders Institution and J Paul Getty Junior Trust. 

Darren Coyne, Project Manager for the Care Leaver’s Association, said: Young people in care are being criminalised for minor offences.

"A young person in care is much more likely to be discriminated against than one who is not and the system is being used against them to punish children in care, rather than dealing with them in a more therapeutic way.

“There is a massive disproportionate number of young people ending up in the youth criminal justice system.

Darren, a former care user himself, explained that he felt not a lot had changed in the past 25 years in regard to the child care system.

"As a former care user myself and now a care worker, I am having similar conversations now with children in care,about things that I experienced 25 years ago," he said.  

"Lots has happened in terms of new laws. We’ve had the Children’s Act, but not much really seems to have changed in the last quarter of a century with regards to care services.

"This review will allow us to look at the evidence and at the situation on a broader scale.”

The nine-month review will gather a body of evidence, with the aim of tackling the issues for those in care and reducing the number who go on to offend, as well as increasing their opportunities in life.

Along with the experts chairing the panel, a selection of young people, care leavers and some still in care,will contribute to the review by sharing their lived experiences and offering recommendations.

Greater Manchester is one of the priority areas the review is targetting, while Salford in particular has been reported as having the highest instance of children aged 10-17 years-old going into care and later facing the youth criminal justice system.

Sam, a 22-year-old care leaver from Salford, is one of the youngest people to be featured on the review panel.

He now works as a session and policy worker for the Care Leaver’s Association, helping other young people in care across the UK, following a history of getting in trouble with the law since being put in care at only 18 months old.

"Growing up in care was hard. I found it very frustrating and difficult growing," he said.

“I started getting into trouble after my mum died and was getting kicked out of care homes.

"They didn’t have anywhere for me to go and my social worker couldn’t do anything to help. I was arrested and went to prison for assault and theft and it just continued until I was about 18.”

Sam got out of prison in 2013 and explained he wanted to change following the birth of his first child. 

His probation officer put him in touch with Darren, and he was thankfully offered support and a new opportunity from the Care Leaver’s Association.

Asked what he thought about the work he was doing now and the care review, Sam explained: “It makes me feel good about what I do and I want to change things in the care system for the next generation.”

 

A spokesperson for The Prison Reform Trust said: “Only fewer than 1% of children and young people are committed to the care of local authorities, yet some 31% of boys and 61% of girls in custody are, or have been, in care - are at risk of being avoidably drawn into the youth justice system and this can be transformed.”

 

Image courtesy of Fraser Speirs, with thanks.