How do we stop unnecessarily criminalising children in their own homes? Last month saw the launch of the national protocol, which will assist in doing just that.
I have been working with the Department for Education, along with many others, to develop this protocol. In the course of working in this area, I have heard many examples of the lived experience of young people that made me sad and angry. For example; not allowing access to the internet and mobiles, restricting access to food and imposing rules that do not make sense. Such living standards leave young people feeling vulnerable, alone and frustrated.
Fortunately, there are many outstanding children’s homes who work tirelessly to raise children with love and kindness. Children’s homes as a group are often tarred with the same brush and reported in a negative way, when the majority do an outstanding job, and love and care for children who can be challenging to love and care for. However, there are some staff who think they just have to police children, rather than parent them, and it is these placements that this protocol sets out to address.
The key principles within the protocol are to work with all care settings and partners, in order to prevent problems occurring. We are keen to make good practice, common practice. The success of the protocol will be determined by the uptake of forces imbedding it locally, in order to reduce the criminalisation of children in care. We will be monitoring uptake through the child centred policing national steering group.
So what can you do to make a difference and make sure that the behaviour of policing is not unnecessarily criminalising children for minor offences in their home? The protocol advocates the development of local partnerships aimed at preventing problems developing that result in calls to the police. Many forces have already taken this route and have a locally agreed protocol in place. This national protocol adds another layer, which means that where children travel across the country, liaison across forces can be undertaken under the umbrella of this protocol.
When we are called to attend, if a crime has been committed, we of course need to record it. However, arresting a young person from their home should be a last resort and every effort made to consider alternative outcomes.
Crucially, children tell us that the biggest difference we can make is to listen in order to make sure that their voice is heard, rather than assume that the child is at fault. Finally, we need to all continually ask “would this be what I would do, if this were my child?”.
National Policing Lead for Children and Young People, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney