Alternatives to Costly Residential Care Emerge

The number of children coming into local authority care increased annually throughout the 1960s and 1970s, peaking in 1977 at 101,200 children. Although numbers then decreased the actual proportion of children taken into care, per thousand of the population of under 18 years old did not fall until 1983. Similar trends in the number of children placed in all types of residential establishments (including CHEs) emerge with a fall from 34,600 in 1975 to 13,199 in 1990. The Table below illustrates these trends.


Manner of Accommodation of Children in Care, 1979-1989 (OOOs)

Year       1979    1980    1981    1984    1985    1988    1989









Based on data from the Utting Report, 1991

O& A – Observation and Assessment Centre- Others includes living with a parent or guardian or in a special school

The peak occupancy of the CHEs was in 1973. In that year there were 7,100 boys and girls in residence. For the next five years the numbers remained well above 6,000 but thereafter they began, slowly, to fall. The pace of decline increased considerably in the 1980s; by 1990 there were only 1149 boys and girls in CHEs.


These developments are explained by a number of factors. There was alarm at the seemingly non-stop increase in admissions into care and concern about the amount of residential provision available to meet this increase. There was also a growing hostility to the concept of institutional care. There was an increasing awareness that community based provision was much less expensive than residential care, and that it was often a better form of care.


Arguments for Alternatives


The loss of confidence in CHEs was further fuelled by evidence that they were not effective in curbing delinquency for the majority of children, a view supported by arguments based on experiments in child care methods in the United States of America that suggested that institutions were now a largely outmoded approach. Other factors in the trend away from residential care were the increased power of field social workers to determine the placement of a child in care, and the loss of authority by the magistrates to specify the type of placement for a child coming into care. There had also been a significant increase in the range of alternative strategies available for the management and placement of children in care, for example, fostering of adolescents on remand, intermediate treatment, and cautioning of offenders. This resulted in residential care being but one of a range of options.


Fostering Advocated


The expansion of the fostering and adoption services began to be seen as the best alternative for children unable to live in their own homes. Thus the proportion of children in care ‘boarded out’, as fostering is still officially known, rose steadily from 32.0% in 1973 to 41.5% in 1982, and 56.9% in 1990. The publication of Children Who Wait (Rowe and Lambert, 1973) probably marks the beginning of the growing emphasis on substitute family care. Rowe and Lambert identified children in residential care who they considered were in need of placement with families. Over the country as a whole, it was claimed, there were up to 6,000 children of pre-school or primary school age who were in the care of social agencies and who needed a substitute family. It was observed that “since adolescents were not very often placed with new parents the study had been limited to those children who had not yet reached their eleventh birthday”. The fact that the study was concerned with the under eleven year olds was quickly overlooked and instead was applied to children of any age.


The First CHE Closure


Kent County Council sponsored one of the earliest projects aimed at finding foster families for adolescents and claimed considerable success in doing so. Its Director of Social Services, Nicholas Stacey, was amongst the first of those in senior positions to advocate the reduction of residential child care. He spoke of these developments at the annual conference of the Association of Community Home Schools in 1976. A somewhat jaundiced account of his speech is given in the Community Home Schools Gazette (Stacey, 1977), which reported that he commended the merit of Kent’s own scheme of professional fostering, stressing that it needed to be planned and supported with a great deal of expertise and care. He linked the development of professional fostering to the closure of North Downs CHE, for which Kent had had responsibility, and pointed out that Kent spent £3m per year on 1,000 children in institutions out of a budget of £20m for the whole of Social Services provision. This was “unacceptably disproportionate”. North Downs CHE was probably the first casualty of this new approach, borne partly of expediency and partly out of loss of confidence in the efficacy of the residential system.


Nancy Hazel and Rosemary Cox launched their professional foster parent scheme for Kent in March 1973. In their prospectus they stated that the aim was to test out how far the treatment functions at present performed by residential establishments for children and young persons could be transferred to persons living in private homes in the community. In doing so they introduced the notion that foster parents should receive a professional fee.


Other local authorities and voluntary child care agencies soon began to develop similar schemes. In one of its later reports, Community Provision For Young Offenders (North West Region Social Services Agencies, 1981a), the DHSS Development Group turned its attention from its previously almost exclusive concern with CHEs to consider the emerging community alternatives. There were accounts of ‘remand fostering” which started in the Wirral Local Authority in 1981 and involved the placement of young people on remand from the Court into foster care.


There were also reports on ‘Contractual Fostering in Bolton’, which graphically illustrate the implication of policy changes in terms of reduced use of residential provision and reallocation of finances. Bolton cut back on its use both of conventional children’s homes and its reliance on out of Borough CHE placements, from 242 to 161 in the former case and from 51 to 7 in the latter. As a result of this action £378,000 was saved, of which £244,000 was reallocated to employ 12 extra social workers and 20 contract foster parents.


In 1982 the London Boroughs Regional Planning Committee published A Survey of Special Fostering Schemes in London.  The survey showed that on 31 March 1982, eight London Boroughs had special fostering schemes intended for delinquent and disturbed children aged 11 years and over and that the number of children on placement across the eight schemes was 102. According to the information provided the children in placement would most likely have been in some form of residential care, including CHEs, if the schemes had not existed. There was further evidence that the total number of children placed in such schemes by the local authorities could be more than doubled.


Examples of Alternative Care from Abroad


Much of the thinking and practice on the concept of fostering for delinquent children had originated in the United States and Sweden. Hazel and Cox (1973) discussed the merits of the child systems in these two nations. In Sweden 80% of children were placed in foster homes and in Massachusetts, USA, there were moves towards a policy of deinstitutionalisation, particularly for delinquent children and adolescents. Both Sweden and Massachusetts had rejected the concept of ‘residential warehousing’. ‘Massachusetts’ became the rallying cry of many who wished to see the demise, or at least a major reduction, of residential provision for young offenders in Britain. Terms like ‘decarceration’, ‘decriminalisation’ and ‘de-institutionalisation’ were used by many who saw Massachusetts as a sign of what could be achieved with a resolute approach.


Joan Cooper, in her capacity as Director of Social Work Services, wrote a brief factual account of her visit to Massachusetts (Cooper, 1976). Her conclusion was somewhat tentative:

In short there has been a major shift from custodial and large scale institutional response towards smallness in scale and variety of provision. For historical and cultural reasons the shift in Massachusetts has been achieved through the purchase of service within an existing and well developed private sector In this country for historic reasons, greater variety exists within the public sector.

Cooper’s conclusions seem to suggest that the situation in Massachusetts was not directly applicable to England and Wales.


What Really Happened in Massachusetts?


An account of the developments in Massachusetts by one of the main participants in those changes, Yitzhak Bakal, confirms that the comparing of the system with that in England and Wales was not entirely appropriate (Bakal 1973).  Bakal was a senior administrative officer of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, the body charged with the responsibility of the management of young offenders. It is clear from his full and cogent account of the dramatic developments in Massachusetts between 1969 and 1973 that many of the developments were a mixture of expediency, desperation, and daring innovation against a background of political squabbling, image making and liberal thinking.


Until 1969 the Division of Youth Service (DYS) had been responsible for managing five large training schools and four detention centres. Bakal recalled that the programmes in the institutions were poor. There were no certified academic or educational programmes and vocational training was limited, offering outmoded skills. Clinical services were almost non­existent. In addition, staff members were untrained and unskilled. The treatment inside the institution had been at best custodial and at worst punitive and repressive. The staff used force on occasions and Bakal gave examples of recalcitrant  children being made to drink water from toilets, or scrub floors on their hands and knees for hours on end. Solitary confinement was also used extensively.


In response to public and media pressure the DYS tried to introduce more liberal and permissive regimes. When these failed it was decided to take more radical action and make a virtue out of a necessity. Thus, Bakal records, that the Department abandoned gradualism, “During the January 1972 legislative recess Miller used his Commissioner’s discretionary powers to officially close the institutions’. The training schools were fully occupied at the time of the closures. Those offenders who could not be immediately paroled, placed or referred to community programmes were housed temporarily on the University campus.


On the face of it this exercise would seem analogous to the closing of all CHEs overnight; there are dangers, however, in making such a comparison. In the first place, unlike the CHEs, institutions closed were used by the Courts specifically for young offenders. Secondly, there were residential units, other than the training schools for the young offenders. These were  known as group homes, many of which were run by privately managed agencies. In closing the training schools the DYS was divesting itself of the burdens of managing publicly owned institutions, thus opting out of the politically embarrassing dilemma of having to choose to support either a harsh or a permissive regime for these establishments.


The Table below shows the distribution of young people in the care of the DYS after closures of what Bakal refers to as the ‘reform schools’. There can be no doubt that a bold and imaginative change had occurred in Massachusetts in its management of its young offenders, but to say that it had closed all its institutions is highly misleading. It did close most of its own institutions and it did aim at a policy of much greater reliance on community based provision, but it certainly continued to make a significant use of residential care.


The Placement of Young Children following the Closure of

Massachusetts Institutions


Group Homes

Private Residential





Care Total in

Residential Care




Based on figures presented in Bakal, 1973


Reflections on the Efficacy of the 1969 Act


In the early 1970s there was continued concern about the best ways of responding to the problems of juvenile delinquency. The House of Commons had appointed an Expenditure Committee to examine the workings of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. The results of the deliberation of’ this Committee were contained in the Eleventh Report of the House of Commons Expenditure Sub-Committee published by HMSO in July 1975. This Report reflected the somewhat confused position of those responsible for dealing with juvenile delinquency in England and Wales at that time. Community Homes with Education, as such, were not discussed in any great depth, but there was a tacit acceptance that they would continue to play an important role in the future management of young offenders. This is well illustrated by the concern of the Association of Directors of Social Services Departments, expressed to the Committee, about the constraints placed on their building programmes for community home facilities.

To those who argued that the majority of young offenders grow out of offending the Report caustically observed:

To say children grow out of crime, however, is small comfort to those who are the victims of juvenile misbehaviour and some sections of the community are clearly unprepared to wait for this to happen. Some attempt must be made both to hasten the process in the case of certain offenders and to deter others from embarking on criminal activities, to contain the hard core of persistent offenders and to punish some offenders. There is a limit to the amount of delinquent behaviour which the society is prepared to tolerate.

The Justices’ Clerks’ Society, who saw the developments of juvenile crime management in the USA as a warning to our system rather than as an example, told the Committee that they “thought that if a level of toleration were to be sought (to offending) it would rise inexorably, citing the American experience as an example”.


The Committee had clearly tried to take all points of view into account, since it concluded by recommending more secure provision and a secure care order for persistent offenders already subject a care order, more accountability of social workers to Courts, and urgent attention to non-residential forms of care. i.e. to intermediate treatment, day care, supervision and fostering. It urged that experiments in fostering disturbed juveniles should set up in each Regional Planning Area.


This approach pleased few people. Thorpe et al. (1980) observed that the recommendations relating to custodial facilities and the powers of the juvenile courts were primarily concerned with prosecution and custody as one strategy for managing delinquents, while those relating to the development of intermediate treatment and localised liaison procedures between the police and social services implied a strategy of decarceration and decriminalisation. Thorpe et al. described these as “contradictory recommendations”.


The Government responded to the Committee’s proposals in a White Paper in 1976 in Observations on the Eleventh Report from the Expenditure Committee. Particular note was taken of the recommendations on residential care and it was agreed that there should be, within the framework of the 1969 Act, a major shift of emphasis towards non-residential care including supervision, intermediate treatment and fostering.


Another highly significant shift of emphasis was evident in the way in which residential care was bracketed, by exponents of community based provision, with custodial provision. Thorpe et al. (1980) equated residential care with custody. “We argue for a policy of ‘decarceration’; the removal of the majority of juvenile offenders from residential care, or custody”.


Many social workers also regarded CHEs as custodial institutions, not significantly different from detention centres and borstals. This indicated the measure of ignorance and prejudice, due partly to the image many retained of the Approved Schools and partly to their very limited experience of the system following the reorganisation of the Social Services Departments in 1971. As many social workers were to play a key role in the new Community Home with Education system, their attitudes were important for its smooth operation. This change of attitude by a number of social workers, social work teachers and criminologists, reflected a growing ideological view concerning care away from the child’s own home.


Ideological Viewpoints on Dealing with Delinquency


Adams et al. (1981) gives a lucid account of the varying ideological viewpoints of those concerned with policies for dealing with juvenile delinquency. Four main strands of thinking were identified, which often overlap: the justice, the treatment, the educational and the social change approaches. The justice approach emphasises the authority of legal institutions and the need to punish or control deviant youth.

This was in line with the conservative ideology. The focus is on personal responsibility, right and wrong, and the jurisdiction of the courts.


The treatment and the educational approaches fit most readily into the liberal ideology, given prominence in the policy developments of the 1960s. The treatment approach, which has strongly influenced the developments of the social work profession, has been based primarily on the concept of individual or social pathology. The educational approach emphasises the normal processes of maturation, which need to be nurtured and stimulated.


Finally, Adams argues that the social change approach is based on the belief that there needs to be radical change in the way in which society is ordered, suggesting that the roots of crime lie in the structure of society. Adams also noted the concern of radical thinkers with the ‘welfare’ and ‘child saving’ approach. He quoted the group Justice For Children, which observed that:


…judicial impartiality and fairness, especially in sentencing, have been severely hindered by the welfare approach. There is also an increasing body of opinion which believes that ‘treatment’ can have a negative effect on a child and his family.


In the context of these conflicting views of juvenile delinquency, and the concerns for economic restraint, the CHEs began to be subject to increasing scrutiny. As Adams et al. had shrewdly observed, “Wherever professional conviction coincides with the direction dictated by financial constraints, it always proves a powerful combination”.


The  success of the vociferous body of opinion dismissing the contraposition of the CHEs to the juvenile justice system is demonstrated by the Report of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal  Affairs Group (1981). This study contained no consideration of the role of CHEs in any future provision. It was dismissive of residential care, quoting a number of studies (Clarke and Cornish, 1975; Thorpe et al., 1976) to demonstrate the failure of residential care to curb reoffending. The study also observed that “there has been a sharp rise over the years in the rates of recorded crime among young people”.


Concern about Rising Crime


A debate in Parliament on crime (July 1986) indicated that this was a matter of concern to all political parties. The chief opposition spokesman on home affairs was clearly reflecting general concern, while at the same time attempting to embarrass the Conservative Government, when he said “a black cloud of lawlessness hung over Britain today and the country is suffering the worst crime wave ever known”. To substantiate his claim he pointed out that in the last seven years theft had risen by 30%, violence against the person by 42%, burglaries by 52% and criminal damage by 73%.


The Home Office British Crime Survey of 1984, based on interviews with 11,000 people showed that half the women interviewed said they avoided going out alone at night. In 1983 there were 19 attempted or actual break-ins per 100 homes on the poorest council estates. Two-thirds of the incidents in the survey were unrecorded by the police. The clear up rate for crime had generally been declining. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) in a paper on Burglary (1985b) noted that “the clear-up rate for burglary is low, 28% of recorded offences in 1984 and has been going down – in 1974 it was 34%”. It also noted that “69% of those found guilty and cautioned were young offenders (under 21); 30% were juveniles (under 17), a higher proportion than for any other offence category”.


The trend, however, has been to play down these concerns and even use selective statistical figures to, consciously or unconsciously, distort the actual overall picture in respect of juvenile delinquency. NACRO (1985a) observed that the number of known juvenile offenders was 10% lower in 1983  than in 1974 and that the rates of offending had levelled off or declined since 1982 for all age groups except females aged 14 to16 years. These figures refer to apprehended offenders. They ignore the fact that the crime rates continue to rise, that the number of offenders caught has dropped, and that many offences are not reported to the police.


The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) (1985) observed that the picture was one of a juvenile justice system which has no clear philosophy, and which makes children pawns in a struggle between competing objectives. They believed that the ideals of justice and welfare are not contradictory and ought indeed to be complementary and mutually embracing. Tutt (1982) summed up the situation well, when he suggested that “in the conflict of approach to juvenile delinquency, justice versus welfare, ideology becomes more significant than empirical evidence”.


Tutt observed also that the decline in the use of Care Orders was radically affecting the residential provision of local authorities. In 1971, when there were approximately 7,500 young people, boys and girls, in open CHEs, there were fewer than 100 long-term secure places for young people in the CHEs. With the decline in the number of CHEs long-term secure places have increased rapidly and, in proportional terms, dramatically; in 1980 some 300 long-term places in security were provided for children and young people. These figures exclude the growing numbers of young people in security in prison department establishments (Borstal and junior detention centres).  


Thorpe et al. (1980) described CHEs, as “custodial institutions” and claimed that the majority of children had  been placed in them unfairly, “not just unnecessarily and damagingly”. He stated that most children in CHEs were there as the result of a ruling of the Court under Section 7(7) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. This enabled the Court to make a child subject to a Care Order as a direct response to a criminal offence. It is argued that the children placed in care under this Section were placed against the true spirit of the 1969 Act as stated in Section 1(2) of that Act. Courts have used Section 7(7) of the Act, thus avoiding the application of the criteria set out in Section 1(2). If, the argument runs, the criteria of Section 1(2) were applied, then the majority of young delinquents would not have had Care Orders imposed on them. The additional criteria set out in Section 1(2) of the Act states that the Court must also be satisfied that the child is in need of care or control which he or she is unlikely to receive unless the Court makes an Order under this section.


Thorpe and the Lancaster Centre devised their own criteria to test the validity of the ‘care and control’ rider when applied to the Section 7(7) cases. These asked:


Is the child a danger to himself and or his community? Does the child have a home in the community which can, with appropriate support, provide an adequate degree of care and control? Does the child have any specific medical, educational, vocational or psychiatric needs which can be dealt with only in a residential context?


These guidelines do not appear to be entirely consistent with the use of the terms ‘care and control’ in the Act. In the earlier part of Section 1(2), care is described in terms of, amongst other things, ensuring that the proper development of the child is not being avoidably prevented or neglected, and control as not being beyond the control of his parent or guardian. Thorpe’s ‘care and control’ criteria seem therefore artificially narrow. There is no consideration of the absence of consistent interest in and care for a child, nor is there any reference to break-down in family relationships in the child’s own home or to a loss of control in a children’s home or foster placement.


By using their check list Thorpe and associates were able to ‘demonstrate’ to three local authority Social Services Departments that between 70.5% and 90% of groups of children committed to care under the terms of Section 7(7) of the Act would not have been so committed had their criteria been applied to them. Whilst Thorpe was right to challenge the growth of the practice of placing children in care via the Section 7(7) provision, there is insufficient evidence that, the check list was an adequate measure of the appropriateness  of that decision or that children and young people in CHEs were wrongly placed. Indeed case histories in a survey of children in the North Region CHEs, carried out in 1980, record long chronicles of disturbed and difficult behaviour and multiple failures of alternative measures and suggest that the children were rightly placed under the terms of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969.


Thorpe et al. (1980), however, concluded that Community Homes with education:


.. .far from preventing delinquent careers, actually promote them, at eventual considerable cost to both the community and the individual delinquent and that moreover, such provision and expense often prevented the development of vital intermediate treatment services.


Intermediate Treatment


Intermediate Treatment, like CHEs,  seem to have long vanished from our social care vocabulary but this was certainly not so in the 1970s and 80s.


Intermediate treatment is described in the report of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal Affairs Group (1981) as a way of reducing delinquency:


…by involving young people in constructive activities, offering them opportunities for achievement, improving their social skills, bringing them into contact with mature adults who can exercise a positive influence on them, providing counselling both individually and in groups and involving parents of delinquents in taking more responsibility for their children’s behaviour.


Intermediate treatment began after the Children and Young Person’s Act 1969 and was to be understood in a variety of ways . Many saw it as having a role in both the prevention and treatment of delinquency. As a result much energy was spent in trying to determine where the balance should lie between intermediate treatment as a treatment and as a preventative measure. The Department of Health and Social Security Guide  to Intermediate Treatment (DHSS, 1972) did not  mention delinquency and even in 1974, Joan Cooper, Director of  DHSS Social Work Service, was still lending her authority to a very generalised, if not amorphous, interpretation of the concept (as cited in Adams et al., 1981);


Intermediate treatment is  intended for a whole age range from 0-18 years. Within it can be encompassed an informal ‘play group’ for an ‘at risk’ 3-year-old under supervision or an opportunity for motor repair work in a group for a 16-year-old traffic offender.


Perhaps because of this somewhat muddle-headed approach, intermediate treatment was slow to develop into a real option for magistrates to use when placing Supervision Orders on delinquents.


Adams et al. (1981) observed that “many local authorities relied almost entirely on the goodwill and enthusiasm of social workers to provide it (intermediate treatment) in their spare time”. He provided some useful data on the number of young people involved in intermediate treatment. Reference is made to an estimate by the National Youth Bureau of 20,000- 25,000 young people being involved in intermediate treatment during the year ending March 1979. Only one in six was actually subject to an intermediate treatment requirement, though up to two thirds were on some kind of Court order, usually plain supervision. It  was also noted that the planned total expenditure on intermediate treatment by local authorities at the year ending March 1980 was £4.5 million, although hidden extra expenses probably took the amount to well over £5 million.


As for the staffing of intermediate treatment, it was calculated that by the middle of 1979 there were about 650 specialist staff in the United Kingdom and that 84% of those engaged in intermediate treatment were usually social workers with caseloads. These figures are a clear indication of the relatively slow growth, low expenditure and inadequate planning of the use of intermediate treatment as a significant alternative to residential care.


Intermediate treatment continued, however, to grow in the estimation of Social Services Departments as a preferred option to residential care for many young offenders. An example of the reasoning of departments is given in a DHSS Report (North West Region Social Services Agencies, 1981b). Trafford Social Services Committee was advised by its officers that residential placements can reinforce delinquent attitudes and that discharge from residential care broke the relationship with the residential worker at a critical time for the young person.  Moreover, residential care was extremely expensive.


The annual cost to the Department of maintaining 83 offenders in residential institutions was £340,000 and Community Home with Education placements were, at the time, costing £11,513 per year per child. The cost per place at the proposed intermediate treatment day centre, based on eight children and allowing a staff/child ratio of 2/1 would be £5,933. The centre would provide a specialist intensive method of social work, incorporating education over a period of 12-18 months for 14-16 year olds. The children would attend the centre four days a week and spend Fridays either in ordinary school or in work experience. There were persuasive arguments for most Social Service Committees.


By 1984/5 with the closure of many CHEs and with additional central government support, expenditure on intermediate treatment according to the National Youth Bureau, had grown to £19,730,000. Although this was a substantial increase on expenditure in the 1970s, it did not reflect either the amount of money saved by the closure of CHEs or the growing need for extra measures as a result of the continuing growth in delinquency.


Arguments about the effectiveness and nature of intermediate treatment continued.  Denne and Peel (1983) reported on a comparison of the offending careers of young people placed in CHEs and those placed on intermediate treatment from the Wakefield area. The researchers concluded  by claiming that “on the basis of this study, the transfer of resources from residential care to the intermediate treatment sector appear fully justified”.


Yet the findings did not necessarily make it clear that this claim was justified. The main benefits suggested were that only 67% of the intermediate treatment sample reoffended, compared with 79% of the CHE sample. Denne and Peel (Community Care March 1983) also recorded that, in both samples, 40% reoffended during placement. Two very significant facts were given little attention. First, the average length of placement in a CHE was 18.8 months while on intermediate treatment it was only 7.7 months and secondly that whilst only 9% of reoffenders in CHEs went to detention centres, borstal or prison, 23% on intermediate treatment were sent to penal establishments.


Others, equally committed to the ‘care in the community’ approach, have a less positive view of intermediate treatment. Stevens and Crook (Social Work Today Sept.1986) claim that “Intermediate treatment is to become the lame duck of the juvenile criminal justice system”. Despite the replacement of social skills training and outdoor pursuits with new approaches under slick headings such as ‘heavy end’, ‘offending work’, ‘the correctional curriculum’, ‘tracking and alternatives to custody ‘projects’ and ‘schemes’, confusion remains and the phrase ‘intermediate treatment’ had become a convenient label for a ‘rag bag’ of social work approaches. Stevens and Crook conclude that “after 17 years, intermediate treatment is a concept with no useful role to play in the management of the juvenile criminal justice system in England and Wales”. Their local authority, Northampton, has rejected intermediate treatment since 1983 “in favour of a strategy of corporate action, planning, efficient management and monitoring”, which also sounds rather nebulous.


Thorpe et al. (1980) have also expressed scepticism toward  the ‘welfare approach’ in the use of intermediate treatment. They suggested that preventing delinquency is not a matter of singling out hapless children at random from disorderly families and setting up what amounts to adolescent playgroups. Rather, they argue, good social work practice with juvenile offenders consists of developing carefully researched strategies with both communities and individuals with very specific objectives and practical actions in mind.


Much store was set by central government on intermediate treatment as a viable option to residential care. The All Party report of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal Affairs (1981) observed that the Director of Social Services for Essex had said that the closure of a Community Home with Education in Chelmsford had saved the authority the gross sum of £400,000 per annum and he added that “closure provides a real incentive to look at alternative forms of care of a non-custodial nature”.  The All Party group also reported the observations of Sir George Young, an Under-Secretary at the DHSS at the time, (February 1981):


At present the development of I.T. (intermediate treatment) is too patchy. Some areas can boast a wide range of activities provided from a variety of sources; in others almost no facilities are available. Everywhere, I.T. at the ‘heavier’ end – that is for youngsters convicted of more than just petty crimes and beyond the reach of many programmes – is very sparsely available.


Intermediate treatment was a grand sounding term and under its umbrella some imaginative schemes for young offenders were developed. Many more ill defined schemes also emerged with little or no assessment of their efficacy. There is much to support the critics of intermediate treatment and it may be that by its generalist approach, more damage than good has been done to the cause of effectively managing young offenders in the community.


All of these debates about options to residential care contributed to the collapse of the CHE system, as shall be considered in my next chapter.



Based on material from Jim Hyland’s book Yesterdays Answers (1994).




Adams, R., Allard, S., Baldwin, J. and Thomas, T. (1981) A Measure of Diversion?  National Youth Bureau.

Bakal, Y. (ed.) (1973) Closing Correctional Institutions. Mass, USA:

Thorpe D. et al. (1976) A Study of the Implementation of the 1969 Children and Young Persons Act. University of Lancaster.

Thorpe, D., Smith, D., Green, C.T. and Paley, H. (1980) Out of Care: The Community Support of Juvenile Offender. Allen & Unwin.

Tutt, N. (1974) Care or Custody? London: Dorton, Longman & Todd.

Tutt, N. (1982) ‘Justice or welfare?’, Social Work Today, 19 October.





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