Vivian’s blog, 8 November 2017 – Care and crime: an alternative response that cares, supports and safeguards is needs

Wednesday, 08 November 2017 08:58

Looked after children are around five times more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system, than young people outside of the care system. There’s something just not right about that! To ask what could be done to address this shocking statistic, we co-hosted a Care Question Time event ‘Care and Crime – Let’s Talk Justice’ with Include Youth as part of National Care Leavers’ Week.

Children and young people in care and care leavers are directly affected by legislation and Government policies. On the topic of youth justice, it is of grave concern that they have and continue to be disproportionately represented amongst the population of the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC). We believe it is their right to have the chance to question and discuss how laws and policies affect them. It’s even more important that decision makers hear directly from children and young people.

So what’s the most important part of the title for this year’s Care Question Time? Is it care? Crime? Talking? Or Justice? Well, the scales of justice featured prominently on all our promotional material and that makes me think of BALANCE and the balance between all four of these things. We need to get the BALANCE right. When and where? Firstly when we consider the link between care and crime. At the event, we heard, as I was expecting, a lot about challenging behaviour of vulnerable children and young people. My question is when, if ever, should that be seen as offending behaviour that needs a response from the justice system and when should it be seen as behaviour that warrants an alternative response to care, support and safeguard? But, talking is important and young people’s questions and discussion at the event reflected that we need to work harder on this issue for children and young people in care. To do that we need, not only to be talking but also acting.

I think it is important to explore why children and young people in care find themselves involved with the youth justice system – from contact with the police to custody in the juvenile justice centre. We know that children and young people in care are often traumatised and it’s my view that we need an alternative response that cares, supports and safeguards.