Working with care experienced and young adults in prison, leaving prison, and on probation

About the issue

The disproportionate levels of criminalisation of care experienced people are reflected in both the child and adult prison populations. Recent data collected by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that over half of the children in child prisons in England and Wales who responded to their surveys had experienced local authority care. Care experienced are, a recent study from the University of Bedfordshire (2021) estimated, seven times more likely to be imprisoned than their peers who are not in care. A study of nearly 4,000 adult prisoners published by the Ministry of Justice (2013), recorded that around a quarter reported care experience. Data on this characteristic of the adult prison population is not systematically collected, however, and organisations such as the Care Leavers Association believe that this is likely to be a significant under-representation of the number of adults in prison who have experienced care.

In order to ensure care experienced children and young adults receive the support they need and are entitled to, it is essential that there are frameworks in place in all prisons to identify and respond to care experience status.

Local authorities must meet their statutory obligations with regard to looked-after children and care leavers who are in prison, including transitional arrangements when children turn 18. Details of these legal obligations are set down in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, Part 11 Code of Practice (Miscellaneous and General).

The criminal justice outcomes for all children leaving custody are bleak, with re-offending rates of around 70 per cent. Issues with resettlement are widespread, but they especially affect care experienced children and young adults who are less likely to have families to return to. Careful thought needs to be given to resettlement options for this group with a view to providing the right placement, an individualised support package, stability and a chance to move forwards.

The resources below provide guidance and access to further help.