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Barnardo's warns over police powers

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Government plans to tackle anti-social behaviour could put vulnerable children in danger, Barnardo’s has said.

Giving the police powers to force unaccompanied children under 16 to return home could see them pushed into potentially harmful situations, the children’s charity warned.

It follows other charities’ criticism of the Home Office plans amid claims the government missed its chance to adopt a more effective approach by simply replacing doomed anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) with similar powers under new names which will continue to demonise young people.

Anne Carrie, Barnardo’s chief executive, said: “If police send children back to abusive or unsafe households or move them on without consideration for the reasons behind their anti-social behaviour they could be placed in greater danger.

“If the government really wants effective responses to anti-social behaviour by children then it needs to know why the problems are happening in the first place. We need to treat the causes of crime, rather than put sticking plasters on the symptoms.”

“There needs to be much better communication between police and welfare services to ensure we are not putting children at risk and ultimately perpetuating the cycle of offending. That is not to say that young people shouldn’t face the consequences of their actions but if we want to protect children we should be able to map welfare needs in communities, not just crime, while preventing offences rather than just reacting to them.”

The charity said social needs should be mapped to help local authorities and communities challenge the causes of anti-social behaviour as well as the offences committed.

Under the proposals in the anti-social behaviour consultation, a “direction power” would enable a police officer or police community support officer “to require a person aged 10 or over to leave a specific area, and not return for up to 48 hours”.

“The power could also include the ability to return home unaccompanied young people under the age of 16, subject to appropriate safeguards,” the consultation document said.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our proposed reforms to the anti-social behaviour regime will empower the public and give the authorities the flexibility and powers they need to tackle this serious problem, and at the moment they are out for consultation.

“The concerns raised by Barnardo’s relate as much to the existing regime as our proposals, and we are looking forward to discussing them with Barnardo’s soon.”

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