A framework to help social care and criminal justice agencies keep looked-after children out of the criminal justice system has been released. The Framework seeks to minimise the risk of criminalising looked-after children and care leavers in order to improve their life chances.
This national protocol is aimed at
- Local authority children’s services.
- Local care providers (fostering services, children’s homes and other arrangements).
- Police forces.
- Youth Offending Teams (YOTs).
- The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).
- Local Youth Panel (Magistrates), and local health services including mental health.
Its key purpose is to encourage and provide the framework for these agencies to co-develop local arrangements to reduce the unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers.
The framework is designed to prevent, unnecessarily, criminalising already highly vulnerable children and young people where possible. It sets out best practice for avoiding the criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers up to the age of 25.
Aims of the framework
It aims to:
Avoid the prosecution of looked-after children and care leavers wherever possible and appropriate, by encouraging a response to incidents which reduces the likelihood of criminalisation, offending or reoffending through promoting:
- an understanding of trauma and attachment and their impact on neurodevelopment and behaviour amongst all key professionals;
- an understanding of where children (UK as well as foreign nationals) may have been coerced and subsequently criminally exploited (for example, through running county lines or in cannabis cultivation);
- the use of positive parenting whilst in care;
- learning from incidents;
- listening to children and young people’s voice/views and using this to inform practice;
- the development of a strong understanding of local data and circumstances;
- use of restorative approaches; and
- an attitude where all professionals ask themselves ‘would such behaviour lead to an arrest if the child had been living with their family?’
Responding to Incidents
The framework includes a recommended decision-making process on reportable incidents within children’s home with the underlying principal that the police should not be used for low-level behaviour management or matters a reasonable parent would not have called the police over and includes a format for dynamic risk assessment.