Mark Whitehead 29 March 2023

Children in youth custody face ‘tension and paranoia’

Children in youth custody face ‘tension and paranoia’    image
Image: Benedek Alpar/

Children as young as 10 in youth custody are facing ‘palpable tension and paranoia’, according to an official report.

The children’s commissioner says they face the threat of violence, cancelled family visits, few opportunities to build positive relationships with others and as little as just 30 minutes spent outside their cells at the weekend.

Many live in a state of ‘constant vigilance’ as boredom and frustration from a lack of purposeful activity or interactions with others result in fights, in many cases resulting in hospitalisation.

A report by the Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza found that positive family influences can boost a young person’s outcomes and wellbeing by acting as a protection.

In 2021-22 there was an average of just 450 children in youth custody at any one time – a historic low, and a reflection of policies introduced to reduce these numbers over the last decade.

Of the children in custody in December 2022, 98% were boys, and nearly one quarter (24%) were black – compared to 6% in the population of 10-18-year-olds in England and Wales.

It follows research by the commissioner earlier this week saying that more than a third of eight to 17-year olds strip searched by police between 2018 and mid 2022 were black.

Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza said: ‘Once again, we see a group of children – mostly boys, many of them black, and overwhelmingly with special educational needs or having missed school – left without the chance to maintain the positive family relationships that sustain them, with minimal opportunities for enriching activities or education.’

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