A charity has warned that children in care are in danger of being criminalised as figures reveal that police were called to some residential homes more than 200 times last year.
Figures released today (July 8) by charity the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal that police forces were called out to children’s care homes almost 23,000 times last year. The charity argues that police are being called out to matters they would not ordinarily be involved in, were the children staying in a family home.
In one case, a boy known only as Eddie tells of being arrested and prosecuted for assault after his care worker discovered he was self-harming. He had been moved around seven different homes throughout his teenage years after being assaulted by one of his mum’s boyfriends, and received no mental health support.
Jodie, not her real name, went into care aged 15 and had been a victim of child sexual exploitation. She attended a Pupil Referral Unit and was the victim of bullying and had been involved in fights with other children that had led to police being called.
A third case is of Sophie, who was placed in a children’s home in a rural village located an-hour-and-half’s-drive from home.“It was kind of like I was stuck in the house and couldn’t really do nothing,” she said. “I just started smashing cups and plates and didn’t really know what else to do, because no one was really listening to how angry I was.”
She added: “I smashed all the cups and they called the police.”
Breaking Down The Data
Image Credit: Unsplash.
The data was revealed through a request under the Freedom of Information Act sent to police forces across England and Wales.
Five police forces reported having a home in their area that had called them more than 200 times – Derbyshire (267 call-outs), South Yorkshire (253), Humberside (235), Suffolk (209) and Northumbria (207). Most forces reported having been called out more than 100 times by individual homes.
Frances Crook, the charity’s chief executive, said: “A child living in residential care has more often than not experienced a range of problems early in life, from acute family stress to abuse and neglect. These children need nurture and support, not repeated contact with the police and criminalisation.
“But our research shows that some children’s homes are picking up the phone again and again over matters that would never involve the police if they happened in a family home.
“While the figures we publish today show there is some way to go before the police and children’s homes properly understand the scale of the problem, official figures from the Department for Education suggest the efforts of the Howard League and others are now having an impact.
“We need to see everyone build on this, with more action to stop children in residential care having their lives blighted with a criminal record.”