A Centre for Youth & Criminal (CYCJ) and the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum (STAF) project on improving the experiences of young people in residential care has received a Special Commendation for Policy Development at the 2018 Howard League Community Awards.
The ‘Responding to Offending in Residential Childcare – Next Steps’ project builds on previous research by CYCJ detailed in the “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”: Responses to Offending in Residential Childcare report.
The 2016 study, which gathered data about police involvement for challenging and offending behaviour by young people in children’s houses, alongside information from an online survey of house managers and interviews with residential workers, highlighted the multitude of factors and influences on decision making by residential staff when faced with offending behaviour. It found that a range of factors could support good quality, robust and confident decision making, including the organisational culture and ethos; prioritisation of professional development, training and induction; and the building and sustaining of good quality relationships between police, residential staff and young people, and amongst colleagues.
Following a positive response to this study, CYCJ and STAF commenced the two year Next Steps project, working in collaboration with organisations and local authorities.
Next Steps aimed to support the implementation of the report’s findings by: developing and implementing a programme for local improvement to provide an understanding of, and influence, staff practice in responding to offending behaviour across four children’s homes; improving and implementing more appropriate supports for residential staff; increasing opportunities for building relationships between police and residential staff and with young people; supporting national organisations; and encouraging wider knowledge exchange of the learning gained and practice support to implement this learning.
The Howard League judging panel commented of the project: “(This is) evidence in the early stages of how children’s home should be run…good policy in place to put into practice in the future. Focus on support to residential staff and their decision making is something I welcomed as a former residential social worker…we look forward to future outcomes.”
Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ, said:
“We are delighted to have the importance and value of this work recognised. There have been concerns documented for years that young people in care are far more likely to be criminalised than their non-looked after peers. We still see examples of the police being called out to minor incidents in residential childcare which for children living with their own families would be dealt with by the family and not lead to a criminal record.
“This work has helped achieve a better understanding of the issues involved in the criminalisation of looked after young people, and has resulted in real changes to policies and practice. The practitioners across local and national organisations that we’ve worked with have shown a significant commitment to challenging themselves and being open to change. There is more to do but we are pleased to see how this work is already making a real difference to young people, through how we perceive and respond to them.”
Debbie Nolan, CYCJ’s Practice Advisor and co-founder of the Next Steps project, has blogged about the progress of the project and where it will go next – read it here.