Police called to some children’s care homes as many as 200 times a year

Children’s homes in parts of the country are calling the police as many as 200 times a year, charity research suggests.

The Howard League for Penal Reform warned its latest study showed children in residential care were in danger of being criminalised.

Information obtained through Freedom of Information requests showed five police forces reported having a children’s home in their area which officers had been called to more than 200 times, according to the charity.

Data provided by 26 police forces received nearly 23,000 call-outs from children’s homes in 2018, the charity said.

Derbyshire Constabulary had 267 call-outs to one children’s home, South Yorkshire officers were called 253 times to the same establishment, Humberside Police had to attend a children’s home 235 times, Suffolk’s force dealt with 209 calls at the same children’s home and Northumbria visited the same establishment 207 times, the figures claim.

Most forces which provided data reported having been called out more than 100 times by individual homes, the charity said.

Frances Crook (pictured), chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said there was “some way to go” in understanding the scale of the problem, adding: “A child living in residential care has more often than not experienced a range of problems early in life, from acute family stress to abuse and neglect.

“These children need nurture and support, not repeated contact with the police and criminalisation.

“But our research shows that some children’s homes are picking up the phone again and again over matters that would never involve the police if they happened in a family home.”

Almost half the calls to police from children’s homes in 2018 were in response to children going missing, the charity’s report said.

Commenting on the findings, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “Children in care have often experienced traumatic events and faced tremendous challenges through no fault of their own.

“We want to break this cycle which is why last year we launched a new National Protocol to bring together agencies across the system – police, courts, social work and schools – to work together to reduce the number of these children who get involved in crime and have contact with police, helping them have a greater chance of flourishing and fulfilling their potential.

“While we are pleased that this report shows that the proportion of children formally criminalised while in residential care has fallen, we are clear that there is still more work to be done.”

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