Research project spotlight #4: Supporting children looked after in the youth justice system

Identifying opportunities for supporting children looked after in the youth justice system at crunch points in their supervision

There are a number of key life events and transitions which are considered to be particularly stressful. For those with contact with both the care system and youth justice system we already know that there are a higher instance of ACEs [Adverse Childhood Experiences] which contribute to this group being some of the most vulnerable in our society. Within youth justice, trauma informed practice is becoming the norm in Wales whilst the emphasis on children’s rights means that we strive to see the child first and the offender second.

This research focuses on the different domains of risk (as measured by assessment tools used by the youth offending service) and how these change in response to key events and transitions. These “crunch points” include both events associated with the administration of justice (eg returning to court, breaching and spending time in the secure estate) as well as life events such as moving home / placement or school. Some may have a positive impact on the perceived likelihood of further offending whilst other may increase the risk. Knowing this will help to identify where there are opportunities to provide timely multi-agency support.
In keeping with the children’s rights ethos of the research, in order to support and develop a series of recommendations for change, the mixed methods project will combine:

  • the use of novel statistical approaches to model data from the youth offending service matched with routine data from social services, health and education
  • participatory arts-based activities with care experienced young people with varying degrees of contact with the law

The child’s voice is central to the research. Not only will young people be working with the project team to contextualise the statistical modelling, but they will also be encouraged to challenge our [adult] assumptions on the nature of the support that they believe that others with similar experiences would benefit from and the extent to which it should be tailored to meet individual needs.

Lead researcher: Dr Helen Hodges

Children looked after in Wales

On 31st March 2019, there were 6,845 children looked after in Wales, a further increase of 440 compared to the previous year. As a result, the gap between the rate of children looked after in Wales compared to other parts of the UK has continued to widen.

Within Wales, while most Local Authorities have seen a rise in both the number and rate of children looked after, there is significant variation; and some have seen the rate of children looked after fall since 2014. Using published data, this series of briefings explores what we can say about the factors that are driving these trends and updates the earlier report Analysis of Factors Contributing to Higher Rates of Care in Wales.

  1. Children looked after in Wales: Trends
  2. Children looked after in Wales: Factors contributing to variation in rates
  3. Children looked after in Wales: Flows into and out of care

This post was originally posted by the Wales Centre for Public Policy.

Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the High Rates of Care in Wales

RESEARCH REPORT

Authors: Dr Helen Hodges, Dan Bristow

Year: July 2019

Summary: 

On 31st March 2018, there were 6,405 children looked after in Wales, almost 1,900 more children than were looked after in 2006. Over that time Wales has consistently had more children looked after per 10,000 of the population than the rest of the UK, and that gap has widened.

Within Wales, while most Local Authorities have seen a rise in both the number and rate of children looked after, there is significant variation; and some have seen the rate of children looked after fall since 2014. Using published data, this report explores what we can say about the factors that are driving these trends.