Children in care ‘at risk of being criminalised’, warns charity

All your travel, crime and breaking news for Suffolk and Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

All your travel, crime and breaking news for Suffolk and Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk children’s home was visited by police more than 200 times in 2018, the Howard League for Penal Reform has revealed.

The League warned that its latest study shows children in residential care are at risk of being criminalised.

Data the charity obtained through a Freedom of Information request shows that five police forces, including Suffolk, reported being called out more than 200 times to an individual children's home in their area.

Information provided by 26 police forces received nearly 23,000 call-outs from children's homes in 2018.

Among them was an un-named children's home in Suffolk which has been visited by officers 209 times.

Derbyshire Constabulary had 267 call-outs to one children's home, South Yorkshire officers were called 253 times to the same establishment and Humberside Police had to attend a children's home 235 times.

Most police forces which provided data reported having been called out more than 100 times by individual homes, the charity said.

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Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said there was "some way to go" in understanding the scale of the problem.

He said: "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.

"But our research shows that some children's homes are picking up the phone again and again over matters that would never involve the police if they happened in a family home."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Children in care have often experienced traumatic events and faced tremendous challenges through no fault of their own.

"We want to break this cycle which is why last year we launched a new National Protocol to bring together agencies across the system - police, courts, social work and schools - to work together to reduce the number of these children who get involved in crime and have contact with police, helping them have a greater chance of flourishing and fulfilling their potential.

"While we are pleased that this report shows that the proportion of children formally criminalised while in residential care has fallen, we are clear that there is still more work to be done."

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