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Children in trouble with the law


Everyone wants to feel safe in their homes and communities and Barnardo’s is clear that children who offend must face up to the consequences of their actions.

Barnardo’s wants to see the Government and services respond to children in trouble as troubled children, so that those at risk of or engaged in offending can be challenged but also improve their life chances – this is the best way to make our communities safer for everybody.

Which children are affected?

Children in the youth justice system are predominantly drawn from the poorest and most disadvantaged families and communities and have multiple problems:

  • 60% have significant speech, language or communication difficulties
  • around a quarter have a learning disability
  • one third of young people in custody have a mental health disorder 3 times higher than the general population
  • many have a history of abuse or bereavement
  • around a half of young people in custody have been in local authority care at some point in their lives and a fifth are still subject to care orders
  • children placed in custody face separation (sometimes by long distances) from family and friends, isolation from the community, and interruption to education, employment or training
  • children do not always receive the support they need to cope and to turn their lives around. In particular, those leaving custody often have inadequate accommodation and are not supported in getting back into education or training
  • custody is expensive and often ineffective. Despite improvements in recent years, 72% of children released from custody go on to re-offend within one year.

Services for children in trouble

Barnardo's works with the most troubled and marginalised children, supporting them to break the cycle of crime.

Read Mark's story to find out how Barnardo's helped to turn around his life and that of his family.

Barnardo’s provides:

  • diversionary, educational and intervention activities to prevent offending, especially for excluded children or those with substance abuse problems
  • intensive support for families with children with challenging behaviour, including parenting courses and mentoring
  • intensive intervention programmes as a direct alternative to custody, including restorative justice and remand fostering
  • advocacy services for children in custody
  • specialist therapeutic services for children displaying sexually harmful behaviour.

For more information and to see some of our education services