The Children's Society has criticised the findings of the Children’s Commissioner's distressing report on strip searches and children, calling for radical change and better safeguarding for Black children
The report by Children's Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza revealed that 2,847 children were strip-searched in England and Wales from 2018 to 2022. In her full analysis, she talks about why she conducted the research.
“I was shocked and appalled by what happened to Child Q in Hackney last year. I felt that I owed it to her to establish whether she was the only child this has happened to. She wasn’t.”
The searches expose the disproportionate representation of ethnicity with Black children being up to six times more likely to be searched than the overall child population. Black boys accounted for one-third (37%) of the strip searches but just over half (51%) of the searches led to no further action.
The data also revealed some strip searches were conducted in inappropriate locations including private businesses and takeaway outlets. 14 strip searches were conducted in police vehicles or schools, while the location of strip searches was not even recorded in just under half (45%) of cases. More than half (52%) of strip searches were conducted without an appropriate adult present.
This leads us to question why so many strip searches are being carried out without both adequate justification and statutory safeguards in place. In response to the Children’s Commissioner's report on these “traumatising and intrusive” practices, Sarah Wayman, Head of Systematic Impact at The Children’s Society says.
“Police leaders and the Government need to urgently investigate why so many children are still being strip searched despite clear national guidance which states that this should happen only when absolutely necessary, and with an appropriate adult present.”
Sarah Wayman calls for better protection for these children, safeguarding Black children in particular.
She wants police officers to realise how incredibly troubling young people will find these practices, urging them to work with safeguarding professionals to make sure these children are being properly supported, “when police officers come into contact with children, their first priority is about identifying the risks of exploitation and working with other services to offer protection”.
A note from The Children's Society
We see the hope and courage in young people every day, and it inspires us to support them through their most serious life challenges. We want to keep making history and we will not rest until we've created a society built for all children. The Children's Society fights for the hope and happiness of young people when it's threatened by abuse, exploitation and neglect.
We stand by The Children's Society’s call for systemic change and better protection of Black children. If you have been affected by racism or want to understand how racism can affect mental health, visit the Counselling Directory.