The current review aims to provide a context for research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, that aims to identity the particular pathways of looked after children into, through and leaving custody and to establish in what ways, and to what extent, these might differ from those of children who do not have care experience.
The intention is to draw on previous reviews, and relevant additional material, through a lens that focuses on the existing evidence base as it relates specifically to the likelihood of children being incarcerated, to their subsequent custodial experience and to the provision of effective resettlement once they have been released.
The relationship between the care and youth justice systems is inevitably a complex one that is determined, at least in part, by the exogenous factors that influence the functioning of each system. Although the behaviour, and social and familial, circumstances, of individual children will impact on the chances of coming into care or being criminalised (or both), other systemic factors are at least as important (see for instance, Rowlands and Statham, 2009: Bateman, 2017). As a consequence, while care and the youth justice interventions might both be understood as responses to particular forms of childhood difficulties, in recent years, such factors have led to divergent trends in the number of children looked after by the local authority and the number who receive a formal youth justice disposal: the former has risen steadily, while the latter has shown a dramatic decline.
Reference: Bateman, T, Day, A M and Pitts, J. (2019). Looked after children and custody: a brief review of the relationship between care status and child incarceration and the implications for service provision. Luton: University of Bedfordshire
Although there are some important limitations with these data, the available evidence demonstrates that children who are in the care of the local authority are consistently over-represented among those who come to the attention of the youth justice system. A similar disproportionality is also evident within the children’s custodial estate.
Note that grey literature publications should be referenced in the normal (Author, date) convention. Grey literature is any information that is not produced by commercial publishers. It includes research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, and reports produced by government departments, academics, business and industry, although here at lookedafter.org.uk we collate academic research (social research that has a particular theoretical framework) separately from research that is survey-based (designed to identifying so-called 'social facts').