Wigan children turning to life of crime

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WIGAN has one of the highest levels of children in care turning to crime in the North West, according to a new report.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that 8.3 per cent of the 355 looked after children aged between 10 and 17 in Wigan were convicted or subject to a reprimand last year.

Statistics released by Wigan Council also show that three young people were first-time offenders during 2012-13 compared to six in 2011-12.

This has shown a gradual reduction since 2008-09 when the number was eight.

The borough is the fifth highest of the 23 authorities in the North West, following Cumbria, which has 11.3 per cent, Tameside, Manchester and Lancashire.

The regional average was 6.6 per cent.

Wigan also ranks joint fifth in terms of youngsters in care with special educational needs (SEN), with 69 per cent – two per cent higher than the regional average.

But the borough has one of the lowest levels of substance misuse, with 1.7 per cent of youngsters.

Blackpool had the highest level, with 7.7 per cent.

Wigan ranks middle for the percentage of children who have been excluded from school.

Latest figures show that in 2011, 11.8 per cent of youngsters had at least one fixed-term exclusion, which is slightly higher than the North West average of 11.4.

Of the 240 children who took part in a strength and weaknesses questionnaire which assesses emotional and behavioural health, 33 per cent posed a concern, which was two per cent higher than the regional average.

Of the 30 teenagers in year 11 in the 2010-11 school year, 70 per cent were in full-time education and 20 per cent were unemployed.

The North West average shows 69 per cent in full-time education and 17 who were out of work.

Anne Goldsmith, director for specialist and targeted, people directorate, said: “The report looks at the number of looked after children convicted or subject to a final warning or reprimand over the year – who were aged 10-17 at March 31 2012.

“The numbers in that report show the numbers in the system not just first time entrants, and indicate a reduction on the previous year.

“We continue to work hard to divert young people from offending, and to prevent re offending including those young people who are looked after.

“We are continuing to work hard at improving the support we offer to looked after children and want to do all we can to support them.

“There are around 500 children looked after in Wigan at any one time from the age of a few weeks to 18 years. “Wherever possible, we work to involve children and young people in developing our services and having a say in how we deliver them.

“We are also introducing a new online means of getting young people to tell us about their views on their care plans.

“In addition, new strategies are currently being used to raise the educational attainment of looked after children.

“We continue to work with young people to improve educational standards through a range of mechanisms including additional tutoring and support in school.

“We will be holding a corporate parenting conference in January and February which will raise awareness in the Council of what everyone can do to provide support to looked after children this will be led by the Leader, Lord Peter Smith.

“Wigan Council’s safeguarding and looked after children’s service was inspected by Ofsted last summer.

“The report stated:‘The overall effectiveness of services to looked after children and young people is good. The council has good ambition for looked after children and good outcomes were in evidence across the partnership for looked after children. Health outcomes for looked after children are outstanding.”