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A two year programme, directed by Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the former Secretary of Justice and Education, has just been launched by the Howard League of Panel Reform (HLPR). The initiative launched on the 25th October has been heralded as ‘a major drive to end the criminalisation of children living in residential homes’. The programme will take a close look at how children’s homes in England and Wales support children, whilst giving credit, where it is due, to police forces that are diverting children away from the criminal justice system.

Research conducted by the HLPR back in March found that there was a higher rate of children being criminalised who were from children’s homes compared to others, including those who were living in alternative forms of care. Their research indicated that those aged 13-15 were almost six times as likely to be criminalised compared to other children the same age in the care system. In addition to this, they were 20 times more likely to be criminalised than those children and young people not in care.

The Chief Executive of the HLPR, Frances Crook indicated that:

“There are two major questions we shall seek to answer. Firstly, how can children’s homes be encouraged to manage children’s behaviour without recourse to the police?”

She continued her statement with:

“In those cases when the police are called out to homes, what can be done to avoid a child being unnecessarily criminalised?”

With regards to Michael Gove, Crooks said she was “particularly pleased” to Welcome him to the project as he had, “spoken so eloquently in the past about doing the best for troubled children in society”. 

As the HLPR continues on its quest to improve the policing of children, which has already seen a 59% reduction in child arrests in the past five years across England and Wales, it’ll be interesting to hear the initial findings of the programme expected next year. 
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