Reflecting upon the Welsh legislative agenda and the increase in numbers of looked after children (children in care) in Wales (Welsh Government, 2018), this research will analyse legislative measures and through an empirical study, engage key stakeholders to understand the extent to which policy and legislation is mitigating criminogenic factors that are often associated with being a looked after child (LAC).
Youth crime remains highly topical, particularly when it involves those most vulnerable in society. As Lord Laming (2016) highlighted, half of all children in custody have experience of being looked after by local authorities, compared with 2% of the general population of Wales. Yet, there is a paucity of research concerning the impacts of Welsh legislative measures designed to assist LAC, especially those who encounter the youth justice system.
The maturing devolution settlement in Wales has arguably enabled the promotion of approaches that are ‘welfarist’ in nature, and there is potential for an augmentation of activity in this area, recommended by the Commission on Justice in Wales for full legislative devolution (Commission on Justice in Wales, 2019). Therefore, the purpose of the proposed research is to create new knowledge and understandings of the ways that LAC’s are supported in Wales. This will be done by generating robust data to provide new insights from key stakeholders such as practitioners and those who have been LAC, concerning their lived experiences of the child care and criminal justice system, or making decisions to create policy or provide services to LAC’s. In addition to compare legislative intention to mitigate criminogenic factors for LAC’s with the realities of their lived experiences in order to draw upon research participants’ experiences to develop policy and practice recommendations to aid further work to mitigate criminogenic factors faced by LAC’s.
Initially, the research will ask: To what extent has Welsh welfare-focused legislation and policy mitigated the criminogenic factors that are often associated with being a ‘looked after child’? This will be achieved by answering the following sub-questions:
- What specific legislative measures have the Welsh Government put in place for LAC’s to mitigate criminogenic factors that may affect them?
- What types of support, facilitated by Welsh law, are provided for LAC’s to mitigate criminogenic factors and are these consistently offered throughout Wales?
- What experiences first introduce LAC’s to the youth justice system and what experiences occur thereafter?