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.  There will however be some continuing activity, as we work with partners to press for the implementation of much needed reforms.  This is detailed in the following analysis of the review’s impact to date:

Download the impact report

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 (both to be published in 2017), and to raise awareness amongst police officers of the flexibility available to them when recording incidents in children's care homes.

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, and we will keep in contact with his team to support this work.

The YJB is exploring with the Department for Education how the data could 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 and hope to publish a report on the learning from this work later in the year.

Read more in the impact report


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 agreed to convene a group of interested parties to meet quarterly for at least one year, starting in February 2017, to ensure that there is progress in achieving the aims of this review.

It is also welcome that the Howard League for Penal Reform will begin a new project in January 2017 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 have been invited to sit on the new project’s advisory group.

We are confident 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.


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