Agencies hope to prevent Blackpool children 'being criminalised'

More than a quarter of children in Blackpool who enter the youth justice system are in the care of the council, new figures show.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 7:09 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 7:10 pm

A report to Blackpool Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee revealed 28.5 per cent of young people in the town receiving a youth caution or court conviction are living in care.

Jeanette Richards, interim head of children’s services at the council, said the figures reflected the national situation, but she admitted the situation was “absolutely not good enough”.

She said work was being done to address it and the council was “aspirational for our children.”

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A high level of children in care end up in police custody
A high level of children in care end up in police custody

Ms Richards said this would include “improved care for children who have been separated from their birth families and a much wider consideration of the holistic needs of our children to hopefully divert them away from criminal activity.

“We must influence wider partners including the police around their duties about thinking of a different way to look after our looked after children and not criminalising them.”

She added currently there were 18 young people in care who were going through the youth justice system.

The meeting also heard more was being done to prevent children from getting custodial sentences with custody panels introduced to try to prevent the criminalisation of young people.

In the last three years the level of children aged 17 and under in custody has decreased to 0.16 per thousand, from around one per thousand.

A report to the committee says: “Blackpool’s ‘children first’ approach means that the use of custody must be a last resort and the Youth Justice Team works proactively to divert children away from custody.

“The Youth Justice partnership has been working to reduce unnecessary court appearances by children aged under 18 years old.

“Preventing children from having to attend court is key to building successful lives and something all partners are committed to achieving.”

This includes using community interventions instead such as ensuring there is family support, asking children to write letters of apology and using restorative justice.