A POLICE force in the North-East has assigned a dedicated officer to each care home to help staff develop problem-solving plans and prevent them repeatedly calling for assistance.

The aim is help staff cope with challenging behaviour from young residents and stop them becoming getting involved in the criminal justice system at a young age.

Across the county officers are receiving a high number of call-outs from some children’s homes, which drain their resources and increase the risk of children in care being criminalised, research by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals today.

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One force said it had been called because a child had squirted a member of staff with water, while another was called by a home about a boy who had pulled down a curtain.

One police officer told the charity that he felt on occasion that homes called the police to help them ‘tuck up’ teenagers who refused to go to bed.

More than one officer said that they sometimes felt that the police were being used as a ‘taxi service’ to pick children up and take them back to homes.

Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said: “Some of the things we are being call to would not warrant a call to the police if it was in a family home.

“What we want to do is work with staff to help them make the right decisions under the right circumstances to protect the youngsters so they are not being arrested and are not being criminalised.

“It is cutting the demands on out time and is a win all round.”

The findings are outlined in a Howard League briefing paper, the second to be published as part of the charity’s two-year programme to end the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Frances Crook, the Howard League’s chief executive, said: “The best scenario for a child living in a children’s home is not to have any contact with the police at all, just like any child living at a parental home.”