BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
From care to custody
David Akinsanya
David Akinsanya is critical of the British care system
David Akinsanya grew up in state care and went straight from there to a youth prison. In a BBC Two documentary he examines the UK care system and asks why so many children raised by the state end up doing time.

I am a reporter and an honorary member of the Prince's Trust and when people discover this, they invariably make me feel it is extraordinary that I went to borstal.


The prison service is still mopping up the failures of the care system

But for me, a stint in prison was inevitable after a lifetime in the state care system where only a few individuals seem to care. Abandoned and condemned, I certainly did not care about anything or anyone.

Government statistics show that 49% of children in care go straight to prison. Of the 56,000 children in care today, 28,000 are set to receive custodial sentences.

'My world fell apart'

Born in 1965 I was the son of a white working class mother and a Nigerian father. It might have been the swinging 60s but it was still a conservative era - especially when it came to babies born from mixed relationships.

My parents arranged for private foster care when I was 10 days old. It was an unsuccessful placement so, at the age of three, Essex County Council became my parents.

Betty Ives
Betty Ives: "My surrogate mother"
I was placed in a Battleswick Family Group Home. Unlike larger institutions this was more like an ordinary family home with only six or seven residents.

Battleswick was run by Betty Ives, an extraordinary dedicated carer, who became my surrogate mother. She disciplined and encouraged me - it was one of the most stable periods of my childhood.

However, when I was nine, Betty retired through ill health. My entire world fell apart and my behaviour deteriorated.

Losing control

After Betty's departure I was expelled from primary school and sent to a boarding school for maladjusted youths.


At the age of 18 I was sentenced to nine months in Borstal for over 300 offences

While I was there, I learned a lot more about crime than I did about maths.

At 13 I was sent back to secondary school but moved into a new care home. I now lived with 18 other disaffected teenagers - unsurprisingly things did not improve for me here either.

In fact, I was soon hanging out with a gang and sniffing glue.

Crime 'inevitable'

Next I was dumped, unsupervised and alone, into my own house on a notorious estate in Basildon. I was only 15, alone for the first time in my life, and terrified.

Even though I managed to get myself to school most days, I had never budgeted or even cooked a meal for myself and frequently ran out of both cash and food.

David Akinsanya
David Akinsanya: "Ashamed of my crimes"
Hungry and penniless, I was soon shoplifting. Along with other members of the gang - who had become the closest thing I had to family - stealing cars and burglary wasn't such a great leap.

At the age of 18 I was sentenced to nine months in borstal for over 300 offences - including stealing cars, breaking and entering, and criminal damage.

While I am still deeply ashamed of the crimes I committed back then, I firmly believe my upbringing left me with few alternatives.

What can be done?

The prison service is still mopping up the failures of the care system.

Jenni Randall
Jenni Randall: "She rescued me from a life of crime"

I think I would have gone back to prison had it not been for my social worker Jenni Randall, who supported me through and after prison, even when I was not officially on her case load.

Our system is inflexible, often intent on imposing one form of care for all children. We should be offering a range of options to combat the wide range of problems, including residential care, fostering, and short-term respite care.

I think we need much earlier intervention catered for individuals. Only then can we effectively tackle the problems of children in state care, before they end up in prison like I did.

Raised by the State was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday 12 May.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
David Akinsanya
Paul is living in residential care
David Akinsanya
Kieran has recently been expelled from school
See also:

11 May 02 | Talking Point
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes