Ofsted’s assessment of the backgrounds and placements of children in care shows that those from Black and minority ethnic communities are “substantially more likely” to be locked up.
41% of the 453 ‘looked after’ children held in secure units or prisons on 31 March 2014 were from Black and minority ethnic communities.
Children from Black and minority communities make up 21% of England’s child population, according to the 2011 census. So these newly released figures show there are nearly twice as many looked after children from Black and minority ethnic communities in custody as would be expected, everything else being equal.
Local authorities have legal repsonsibilities towards looked after children. They must safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and, among other things, give due consideration to the child’s racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when making decisions about him or her.
Children can be placed in secure units because they have a history of running away and being at risk of significant harm, or they are likley to injure themselves or others in an alternative placement. They can be placed in secure units or prisons after being remanded by a criminal court, or convicted of a crime.
NB Ofsted’s data refers to children being held in young offender institutions or prisons, though in law and practice both types of institution operate as prisons.