On Wednesday 19th June we hosted a discussion event at the House of Lords, sponsored by Lord Listowel, on “Child on Child harm”. 

This arose from AoCPP members discussing real issues they were facing in which they felt that the policy and guidelines do not serve to promote the best outcomes for children.  Children who have harmed other children are very often extremely vulnerable and have experienced harm and abuse themselves. Yet, from the point of contact with the police they are regarded as a perpetrator of an offence, are processed through criminal justice systems designed for adults, and are often subject to restrictive and disproportionate risk management practices which deny their developmental rights as children and hinder their ability to move on from their harmful behaviour. An identity is created for these children defined by precisely what we do not want them to become. Different professional silos and practices do not always function effectively either to safeguard children’s welfare or to promote their rights. 

This event was an initial exploration of what is happening across organisations and within policy fields, and whether there are current activities which will address this issue, or whether there is further work to do. Speakers included Simon Hackett (University of Durham), Pat Branigan (NSPCC), Peter Yates (Napier University), Jenny Lloyd (University of Bedfordshire and Contextual Safeguarding Network), and Willma King (Childline), with colleagues in attendance from The Children’s Society, Barnardos, BASW, SaferLondon and a number of independent and other professionals.  We discussed harmful sexual behaviour, including the challenge of increasing uptake of the many great resources already in existence, and youth violence and knife crime, in particular in the context of cuts to youth services, and what is known about place-based safeguarding and effective youth work.  There was a general consensus in the room that the policy framework is not helpful for supporting and rehabilitating these children and young people, and that further joined up work on the particular system challenges would be worthwhile.

We also discussed our use of language.  When initially scoping this event we were referring to “peer on peer” abuse.  We had changed this to “child on child harm” in response to feedback that these offenses are not always between peers and often involve a significant power differential (eg older children abusing younger children). During the evening the group also felt that this phrasing was still not quite correct and that “children with harmful behaviour” would more accurately encompass the range of issues under discussion.

Our next steps will be to develop this network with additional stakeholders, and devise a work plan for linking up to make a difference in some of the key areas identified.  If you have any comments or feedback on this workstream please get in touch at [email protected]