keeping children in care out of trouble: an independent review

The main phase of Lord Laming’s review of looked after children in the criminal justice system has now come to an end.  However, Lord Laming and John Drew (secretary to the review) continue to work with partners to press for the implementation of much needed reforms.  

The immediate impact of the review is detailed in the following analysis:

Download the January 2017 impact report

Further progress since January is summarised here:

Download the May 2017 progress update

Activity is underway within the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and the Department for Education in response to many of the review's central recommendations, and the Welsh government has indicated its intention to implement them in full. 

In December the UK government made a commitment to produce a national concordat to reduce further the criminalisation of looked after children, to produce new statutory guidance with the same aim, and to raise awareness amongst police officers of the flexibility available to them when recording incidents in children's care homes.  To this end officials have set up a stakeholder group to help develop a first draft; John Drew represents the care review on this group.

Lord Laming and John Drew met the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Justice Greening, in April 2017.  She welcomed the review findings and made clear her commitment to seeing through the development of the concordat this year, subject to any events beyond her control that might arise due to the general election in June.  She explained that she intends to hold a review of the statutory guidance on corporate parenting after the concordat has been finalised.

Lord Laming and John Drew met the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, the Rt Hon Liz Truss, in March 2017.  She welcomed the review findings.

John Drew has continued discussions with officials in Cardiff following the meeting he and Lord Laming held in December 2016 with the Welsh government advisory group on improving outcomes for looked after children.  
David Lammy MP has confirrmed that his review of possible racial bias in the criminal justice system will include specific consideration of the experience of looked after children and young people who are black or from another minority ethnic group.  This review is now due to be published in the autumn.

The YJB is exploring with the Department for Education how the data might be improved, so that national and local leaders have the information needed to improve outcomes for children in care.  We are working at a local level with a number of local authorities and police forces.

Download In Care, Out of Trouble:
In Care, Out of Trouble—full report
In Care, Out of Trouble—summary report
Mewn Gofal, Allan o Drwbwl—Welsh translation of the summary report
Risk, adverse influence and criminalisation—literature review by Dr Jo Staines of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies

The review
Looked after children are significantly over represented in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.  This independent, charitably funded review was launched by the Prison Reform Trust in June 2015 to examine the reasons behind this and how best to tackle it.  The review would not have been possible without the support we received from generous individual donors and charitable trusts.  We are also grateful to Lord Laming, the review panel members and other volunteers, as well as those who made submissions to the review—particularly those who shared their own experiences of care and the criminal justice system.  Following an intensive process, we published the review findings in May 2016 followed by further publications over the summer.

Review findings
We found that, while most children and young people in care do not commit offences, a significant minority are still experiencing the damaging effects of avoidable involvement in the criminal justice system. Lord Laming made wide ranging recommendations which are summarised in the impact report, together with information about the progress that has since been made towards achieving change.  

Next steps
While we are encouraged by the progress made so far, we are conscious that amid many competing priorities for both central and local government, ongoing pressure from outside bodies is likely to be critical in achieving change.  

We are therefore delighted that the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales has made looked after children one of its main national priorities in the coming year and has convened a Looked After Children forum to pursue reforms in this area.  

It is also welcome that the Howard League for Penal Reform has begun a new project aimed at reducing the criminalisation of looked after children, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and chaired by Michael Gove.  John Drew, secretary to Lord Laming’s review, and review panel member Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney are members of the new project’s advisory group. 

We are hopeful that these initiatives will build on the work of Lord Laming’s review and earlier studies, keeping the unnecessary criminalisation of looked after children high on the agenda and accelerating progress towards change.

Contact
For further information about Lord Laming’s review, please contact Katy Swaine Williams