Government launch new national protocol on reducing the criminalisation of looked-after children

Keeping looked-after children and care leavers out of the criminal justice system

Teenagers in a hostel

The Department for Education has published a new national protocol on reducing the criminalisation of looked-after children.

The document is aimed at social care and criminal justice agencies, and seeks to provide a framework for local areas to help keep looked-after children and care leavers out of the criminal justice system. It fulfils a commitment made by the government two years ago in response to Lord Laming's In Care, Out of Trouble review.

The MA was represented on the protocol's Stakeholder Group throughout its development, and has also formally endorsed the initiative.

The protocol sets out a range of overarching key principles for signatories to recognise, including:

  • An understanding that looked-after children's previous experiences can contribute to behaviours that make them vulnerable to involvement in the youth justice system.
  • Acknowledgment of the impact of trauma and abuse on the development of children in care, including the effect on emotional and behavioural development and self-regulation.
  • Recognition of the specific needs of children and young people who have been trafficked or are victims of modern slavery.
  • The use of restorative and diversionary approaches to underpin responses, whether the behaviour occurs in a child's placement or the wider community.

The document also provides a model multi-agency protocol for use in local areas, which lists magistrates as one of the key partners for inclusion.

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