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Friday, 13 July 2012

Councils told to get more involved in youth justice

Children & Young People Now

By Neil Puffett, Friday 13 July 2012

Councils must play a more active role in youth justice in order to drive necessary changes to the system, the chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has said.

Done: "There is a huge amount of work to do". Image: Tom Campbell

Speaking at a Centre for Social Justice and Prison Reform Trust conference, Frances Done said that councils must become a “partner” to the YJB, helping to push for change.

She argued that while “extraordinary” achievements have been made in youth justice since 2000, funding cuts for youth offending teams mean local authorities must take more responsibility for early intervention and prevention work.

Done said that despite progress on bringing local government into the youth justice system through plans to devolve the cost of custody, local government involvement in services for young offenders must be wider.

“Local government must be much more a local and national partner in youth justice, driving the changes we need,” she said. “There is a huge amount of work to do.”

Explaining her other key priorities for the future of youth justice, Done said she no longer wants the prison service to be responsible for staffing and overseeing the youth secure estate.

“I want our prison service run in a way wholly focused on the needs of young people,” she said. “My aim is for the youth estate to be outside the prison service.”

She added that youth unemployment is a major issue for the youth justice system. “How can we expect young people not to offend if they are not in training or a job,” she said. “It is a huge priority to make sure they get help.”

Jaee Samant, director of the Home Office Crime Directorate, said she believed the government’s troubled families programme can be an important tool in addressing youth offending.

“It is drawing in a lot of initiatives that have worked such as the family intervention projects, but they are also trying to take a holistic view of families and particular individuals.”

She added that the Home Office is considering improving service provision for young offenders once they reach the age of 18.

“It troubles me that there is quite a shift from youth justice to adult justice,” she said. "It goes from a reasonable framework and a reasonable degree of support to having much less. It is quite a cliff edge for some of them and something we have to think about.”

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