BMA warns on children in custody

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Vulnerable children and teenagers are continually let down by health and social care services, and it is inevitable that many end up in the criminal justice system, warns the British Medical Association.

Its new report, Young Lives Behind Bars, says that many young people in custody come from chaotic backgrounds and are often the victims of violence, abuse, or neglect.1 It recommends that health professionals carry out early screening and identification of risk factors such as mental health problems, including postnatal depression, and substance misuse among parents and other carers.

In the 12 months to March 2013 2780 people aged under 18 were placed in custody in England and Wales. The average length of time spent in custody was 85 days. The report says that 24% of boys and 49% of girls aged between 15 and 18 in custody have been in care. Three quarters have lived with someone other than a parent, and 40% were homeless in the six months before entering custody.

The report highlights the fact that around 60% of children in custody have significant speech, language, or learning difficulties, 25-30% are learning disabled, and up to ...