Young people 'committing crime for a roof and a hot meal'

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Young people leaving care are committing crimes to get sent to prison so they can have free accommodation and a daily hot meal, an English politician has said.

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield said that young care leavers in her constituency see jail as "an attractive option" when they are too old to be looked after by the state.

She called on the UK Government to take action to reduce the proportion of prisoners who have spent time in care as children.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous admitted the care and supervision of young people in jail is below par and said the Government was carrying out reviews to improve both the youth justice system and residential care for children.

During justice questions in the Commons, Ms Caulfield said: "Roughly 20% of prisoners have spent some time in care and meeting some of the young care leavers in my constituency, prison is often seen as an attractive option because it provides a roof over their head and hot meal each day.

"What measures is this Government taking particularly with care leavers to ensure they have better options in life than prison?"

Mr Selous replied: "I can tell you that the Government has asked Sir Martin Narey to review residential care for looked after children and some of his recommendations will touch on the criminal justice system.

"I can also tell you that the care and supervision of young offenders in custody is not good enough and that is why the Government has asked Charlie Taylor, a former chief executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership, to lead a review of the whole of the youth justice system, and that report will be out shortly."