Looked after children put in custody are often released with inadequate social services support, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick has said.
Children aged 15-18 in local authority care are over-represented among young people in custody, with around 400 of them held at any one time.
A review by Mr Hardwick The care of looked after children in custody, carried out for the Youth Justice Board, said closer working between custody teams and social workers was needed to support these children’s successful reintegration into society on release.
“Worryingly, a third of custody safeguarding teams felt that some social workers tried to end their involvement while the young person was in custody,” the report said.
It found that staff at several young offender institutions were unclear about the entitlements of looked after children, and several viewed it as the local authority’s responsibility to make arrangements for release.
Accommodation was often not confirmed until close to release, affecting employment or education opportunities, while some were placed in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation;
Mr Hardwick said: “This report concludes that far too many of the same findings identified by earlier reports remain a serious concern.
“Looked after children are a particularly vulnerable section of the youth custody population and it is vital that social workers both in the institution and in the community are available and willing to help prepare them for release.”
He recommended that the YJB and the Department for Education should agree a strategy to coordinate services for looked after children in custody, and that there should be a designated social worker within each young offenders’ institution with responsibility for working with local authorities on preparations for children being released.