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Looked after children and youth justice: a response to recent reviews

Jo Staines (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to provide a response to a recent government-commissioned review of residential care (Narey, 2016), and the subsequent government response (Department of Education (DfE), 2016), which minimises the correlation between the experience of being looked after and becoming involved in the youth justice system. The Narey review emphasises on the role of early adversity in looked after children’s offending behaviour but minimises the significance of experiences during and after care, and downplays the effect of policies and practices that may exacerbate looked after children’s involvement in the youth justice system.


The paper builds upon a systematic literature review conducted for the Prison Reform Trust (Staines, 2016) to demonstrate the extent of current knowledge about how risk factors, adverse experiences during and after care and the criminalisation of looked after children combine to increase the likelihood of involvement in criminal proceedings. The paper also highlights gaps in the research evidence, particularly in relation to gender and ethnicity.


The findings suggest that the Narey review (2016) and the government response (DfE, 2016), are misguided in their attempts to minimise the role of care in looked after children’s disproportionate representation within the youth justice system. The paper cautions against the over-simplification of a complex relationship and emphasises on the importance of recognising the intersection between different factors.


The paper uses secondary sources to develop an original argument to rebut claims within a recently published review.



The author would like to acknowledge the Hadley Trust’s support in funding the systematic literature review on which this paper is based.


Staines, J. (2017), "Looked after children and youth justice: a response to recent reviews", Safer Communities, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 102-111.



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