Crime

Children in residential care 'in danger of being criminalised', charity finds

Police were called to a Suffolk children's home 209 times in 2018, Howard League for Penal Reform research found.

The Howard League sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all police forces in England and Wales, asking for data for call-outs from children’s homes. Each force was directed to a list of Ofsted-regulated children’s homes in its area, which is regularly provided by Ofsted to the chief constable. Twenty-six forces were able to provide data.

The data highlights that five police forces — including Suffolk — reported having a home in their area that had called them more than 200 times.

The report suggests that, although some children’s homes are calling the police excessively, efforts to reduce criminalisation are now having an impact. The proportion of children formally criminalised while in residential care was reduced from 15 per cent to 10 per cent between 2014 and 2018.

This is a step in the right direction after the Howard League called on children’s homes, police and the government to do more to prevent criminalisation. The charity began campaigning on the issue in 2016 after government figures revealed that children living in children’s homes were more likely to be criminalised than other children, including those in other types of care placement.

A child living in residential care has more often than not experienced a range of problems early in life, from acute family stress to abuse and neglect. These children need nurture and support, not repeated contact with the police and criminalisation.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform

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