February 3

Criminalisation of Young People in Care


This is a big topic at the moment. The Howard League would have you believe that children living in homes are being criminalised at excessive rates – 13 times more than other children.

Others in the sector are not so convinced with these figures. However, there is a consensus that any child who is unnecessarily criminalised is one child too many. At the heart of this concern is whether children’s homes are adequately equipped to manage the challenging behaviour that some young people may present. The better equipped they are, the less likely they are to call the police to manage behaviour for them.  However, the learning and improvements needed extend beyond homes and that is why the National Protocol for Reducing the Unnecessary Criminalisation of Looked After Children and Care Leavers has been developed.

It aims to avoid the prosecution of looked-after children and care leavers wherever possible and appropriate, by encouraging a response to incidents which reduces the likelihood of criminalisation, offending or reoffending through promoting:

  • an understanding of trauma and attachment and their impact on neurodevelopment and behaviour amongst all key professionals;
  • an understanding of where children (UK as well as foreign nationals) may have been coerced and subsequently criminally exploited (for example, through running county lines or in cannabis cultivation);
  • the use of positive parenting whilst in care;
  • learning from incidents;
  • listening to children and young people’s voice/views and using this to inform practice;
  • the development of a strong understanding of local data and circumstances;
  • use of restorative approaches; and
  • an attitude where all professionals ask themselves ‘would such behaviour lead to an arrest if the child had been living with their family?’

Homes can usefully evaluate the extent to which their services promote the above and take action to improve where necessary. 

Trauma informed practice is central to this and our one day course Trauma Informed Care in Children’s Homes will be held in September. To register for more information click the contact us link on this page 


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