A damning report in to the lives of 60 looked after children, has revealed that five of those included in the serious case review were dead before the age of 17 – three murdered at the hands of a knife – and a further three convicted of murder.
Despite the intervention of multiple agencies in the lives of the troubled children, some as early as at age two, by their early teens it was already too late with common traits of school exclusions, going missing, drifting in to crime taking drugs, carrying knives and over half either in a gang or affiliated to one of the borough’s five gangs.
The report called the Vulnerable Adolescents Thematic Review, released by the Croydon Safeguarding Children Board (CSCB) was set up after three teenagers died in less than a month in the summer of 2017. Sadly, another child who had been included in the cohort, was stabbed and killed within weeks of this review commencing and a fifth suffered the same fate months later.
The study looked at the role of schools, parents, social services, police and gangs, played on the lives of the children. The report identified a significant over-representation of black boys of Caribbean heritage among the group who disproportionally achieved poor outcomes with many case studies ending with the child in jail.
Almost 25 per cent of those in the review lived in the CR7 post code of Bensham Manor, Thornton Heath and West Thornton (see map below).
Over half of the children came to the notice of Children’s Services before the age of five and 45 of the 60 children were looked after by the council at some stage in their childhood.
The report states that Looked After Children are some of our most vulnerable children in society and that without the structure and consistency that a strong family unit can provide, children become more susceptible to exploitation and risks in the community.
It goes on to highlight: “Had early intervention services been available from a young age, or targeted support been provided earlier, complemented by a holistic family plan, it is reasonable to conclude that children might have achieved better outcomes.”
It identifies a range of parental factors: 72 per cent of father’s were absent from their child’s life with 42 per cent of children witnessing domestic abuse and 38 per cent coming to the notice of police due to reports of domestic abuse from aged one to 12-year’s-old. Exposure to domestic abuse as a child can have a lifelong impact on child’s ability to learn, form relationships on their behaviour and emotional wellbeing.
More than a quarter had experienced homelessness, drug abuse or the absence of their mother. A third (37%) were sexually exploited in their teens .while more than a quarter (27%) were exposed to criminal exploitation, including involvement with County Lines networks.