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BASW: Treat children in care as individuals, not criminals

As a new report from MPs claims the youth justice system is currently failing children in care and care leavers, BASW has reiterated the need to treat looked after children as individuals.

The report by the Commons' Justice Committee said vulnerable children were being drawn into the criminal justice system in a way that those from family homes were not. Committee chairman, Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith, commented that the committee had even heard one example where police had been called to a children's home to investigate a broken cup.

The Committee found that despite the number of under-18s in custody falling by 40% since 2008/09, the Youth Justice Board spent nearly two-thirds of its budget on locking up young offenders in 2011/12, and is urging early intervention, use of restorative justice and alternatives to custody to help cut reoffending.

Commenting on the report’s publication, BASW chair Fran Fuller said: “A lot of this allegedly criminal behaviour stems from typical teenage reactions to stress and arguments.

“Within a family environment, a parent would be unlikely to call police to arrest a child following an emotional outburst.

“We need to start reacting to these children as individuals, not filtered through a lens called ‘being in care’.

“Many of these care homes are privately run and employ staff who are not qualified social workers. We want to see every child in care having a personal social worker who knows them well. We must do more than pay lip service to the notion of corporate parenting."