Agenda item

Looked After Children in the Criminal Justice System; a summary of the Taylor, Laming and Lammy reviews


1.            Ms Fisher introduced the report, summarised the key points of the three reviews and outlined the youth justice system in Kent and the challenges it faced, in particular the high number of looked after children in the system and the work being undertaken to address this. She responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:


a)    the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner had praised the work done in Kent to address the problems faced by children in care entering the criminal justice system, particularly in identifying young people with mental health problems, addressing the provision of CAMHS and establishing alternative locations in which young people with mental health issues could be held and questioned;


b)    Ms Fisher clarified that the figures given in the report referred only to Kent’s resident population of children and young people in care; those placed in Kent by other local authorities were counted separately.  This was welcomed by Panel members;


c)    the number of other local authorities’ young people in care in the criminal justice system had decreased in the period examined by the reviews, while the number of Kent’s resident care population in the system had not changed.  To avoid large numbers of young people leaving care with the stigma of a criminal record, projects to avoid criminalising their behaviour and to use ‘informal community resolution’ in place of custodial sentences was proving to be very effective;  


d)    one speaker commented that often the most effective way of deterring a young person from criminal behaviour was a stern police warning and the shock and anger of their family at having a police visit to their home. Another speakers added that young people should be made fully aware that a police caution was not something to be viewed lightly as it counted as a criminal record;


e)    Ms Fisher confirmed that, although levels of knife crime and use of noxious substances among young people had increased nationally, this had not been the case in Kent;


f)     Ms Fisher explained that, under the .. ..Act  1998, health and education services in the criminal justice system were required to be provided via multi-disciplinary and partnership working.  This was working well, attendance and inclusion figures were good and working relations between youth justice workers and young people were strong.  Any young person in the criminal justice system was required to have 25 hours’ education per week, up to the age of 16, which was delivered by formal multi-disciplinary working, to replace previous less formal arrangements. As a result of this, the number of NEETs in this cohort had been much reduced;


g)    a re-settlement programme, involving joint working between youth justice and social workers, aimed to reduce levels of re-offending.  A young person’s accommodation and education/training had been identified as key factors affecting their likelihood to re-offend once released;


h)   factors affecting the quality of service which could be delivered included relations between, and the extent of common working practices of, the professionals involved. Relations between the youth justice service and the Police were good, with good integration and consistence of approach.  Work was ongoing to review charging decisions and explore alternatives.  With Health, there were opportunities to improve working relations, particularly around provision of CAMHS and speech, language and communications. With the Probation service, working relations were good but staff shortages had had an impact;


i)     the positive picture of the service in Kent was welcomed and the team congratulated on the progress made and on the clarity of the information provided in the report, which allowed the Panel to have a full picture and understand the issues;


j)      the protocols for joint working had been reviewed and updated. Protocols covered all looked after children in Kent, including those placed by other local authorities. The support for care leavers and transition from youth services to adult services were being reviewed;


k)    it was important that expectations of the CAMHS service were realistic, as there was much work still to be done to develop the workforce and address other issues once the new provider took over, in the very near future. It would take some time for improvements to make a difference;


l)     the NHS? Transforming Care Programme now included children and would seek to ensure that health services were linked effectively, which would help the general effectiveness of the services and placement opportunities which could be offered to young people trying to move out of the criminal justice system, as a large proportion of them had emotional health and wellbeing issues, for example eating disorders and behavioural problems.  It was important that young people be placed as close as possible to their family so they could benefit from their support;


m)  asked if she was able to comment on the services received by young people in the criminal justice system, Ms Dunstan said she did not know any child in care who had experienced this.  Ms Moody confirmed that Foster Carers received training in supporting any young person involved in drugs and knife crime and said she felt prepared, should she need to tackle such issues; and


a)    Ms Khosla noted there was an ongoing review of casework that would assess the factors which influenced a young person becoming involved in the criminal justice system. It was important to look at the multi-agency response to a young person’s care experience and what had lead them into criminality. Ms Khosla reminded the Panel of the policies which supported looked after children in any situation, including the Independent Reviewing Officer and social workers and advocacy support. The number of young people leaving care currently serving custodial sentences was very small; 29 out of a total care leaver population of approximately 1,300.


2.            RESOLVED that the information on the impact of the criminal justice system on children in care in Kent, set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions, be noted.  

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