Children in trouble

Home Office (1968) Children in trouble Cmnd 3601 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 0 10 136010 5

This long awaited White Paper was published was published after the devaluation of sterling had seen James Callaghan move from the Treasury to the Home Office. The debate about The child, the family and the young offender (Home Office, 1965) had been fierce and everyone wanted to know how far the Government had listened to their responses to the earlier White Paper.

Key points

  • The changes to the law relating to over seventeen-year-olds proposed in The child, the family and the young offender will be dropped.
  • The causes of juvenile delinquency are many; it needs early recognition, full assessment and a range of measures for its treatment.
  • The welfare principle along with the framework which has governed juvenile justice will continue.
  • Informal voluntary agreements rather than family councils will deal with the majority of situations.
  • Juvenile courts will be retained for the minority of cases where no agreement can be found.
  • There will be new procedures for under 14s and for over 14s appearing before the juvenile court.
  • Intermediate treatment will provide a range of disposals between treatment at home and in a residential facility.
  • Supervision will replace probation, the approved school order will cease immediately and Borstal training would cease in due course.
  • Local authorities would be under a duty to return children home as soon as possible.
  • Observation and assessment centres would take over the functions previously undertaken by reception centres, remand homes and classifying schools.
  • There would be an integrated and comprehensive range of residential facilities.
  • The Advisory Council in Child Care and the Inspectorate would be restructured and there would be regional Joint Planning Committees and a Development Group.


In Section I Introductory, the authors summarise the differences in the proposals set out in this White Paper from those in The child, the family and the young offender (Office, 1965); there is to be no change to the law relating to young people over the age of seventeen or where someone under seventeen is jointly charged with someone over seventeen. Issues relating to their treatment have been referred to other advisory bodies.

This White Paper further develops services for the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency to support cooperative development of services.

In Section II General, the authors argue that there is no single cause of juvenile delinquency; there are many influences. Sometimes it is an incident in normal behaviour; sometimes it is related to unsatisfactory social circumstances, to school problems, to maladjustment or immaturity or to a deviant, damaged or abnormal personality.

There needs to be early recognition, full assessment and variety and flexibility in the measures available from supervision and support to highly specialised interventions. The consequences of juvenile delinquency may range from minimal to considerable and it is important to protect society from its consequences; indeed protecting society and helping children are complementary processes.

The welfare principle will be retained along with the separate juvenile courts which have for sixty years been administered by selected magistrates. Voluntary organisations, the probation services, approved schools, juvenile liaison officers and, for the past twenty years, children’s departments have all contributed to dealing with juvenile delinquency and it is important that this cooperation continues.

The White Paper provides the basis for steady development of services over time, both because it is not reasonable to implement all the changes at once and because implementation needs to be arranged in consultation with those affected.

In Section III Changes in legal procedures, the White Paper sets out the basic principle that juvenile offenders will be dealt with outside the courts with the agreement of the parents. Feedback on the earlier paper had favoured informal arrangements mediated by social workers rather than family councils and so this paper is suggesting that juvenile delinquency be dealt with either in an informal, voluntary way or, if that is not practicable, by juvenile courts. A young person’s seventeenth birthday will be the upper limit for these procedures and there will be different arrangements for younger and older juveniles.

For children under ten, the procedures will remain the same; for those aged ten to fourteen the circumstances in which court proceedings can be taken will be narrowed; for those aged fourteen to seventeen, the key question will be: is it in society’s interest to prosecute or is there another way to serve society’s interests?

The juvenile courts will be retained but with new procedures and rules; for children aged ten to fourteen, both Section 2(a)(i) and 2(a)(ii) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 will have to be satisfied, that is, there will have to have been an offence, which the child has admitted or been proved to have committed, and the child has to be in need of care and protection. In these cases, proceedings can be initiated by either the police or the local authority.

In the cases of children aged fourteen to seventeen, the police will be required to consult with the local authority about proceedings and, should proceedings be considered, apply for a summons/warrant to a magistrate; in other words, the principle should be voluntary action, including warnings, cautions, etc. as at present, with court proceedings only if necessary. This will entail consultation and cooperation among magistrates, the police and local authorities, probably periodic meetings and possibly the involvement of teachers.

In Section IV Changes affecting treatment, the authors summarise these as the abolition of the approved school order and its replacement by the care order, the introduction of intermediate treatment and the transfer of the supervision of children under fourteen to the local authority. They note that the first, as outlined in The child, the family and the young offender (Home Office, 1965), was supported, the second is new and the third has been changed.

Other than for offences punishable in the case of an adult with a sentence of fourteen or more years imprisonment, the right to trial by jury would be abolished for young people up to the age of seventeen. Borstal training would be retained for fifteen and sixteen-year-olds for the time being but would be discontinued in due course. Supervision by those under fourteen would be undertaken by the local authority and by those between fourteen and seventeen by either the local authority or the probation service as the court decides but not by anyone else.

Intermediate treatment would take in existing facilities such as Junior Attendance Centres and Junior Detention Centre but lead to an increase in the variety of options between staying at home and being taken away. Broadly speaking, there would be two types: one involving temporary residence for up to one month in a year and the other residence for up to three months in the first year. It would be the responsibility of Joint Planning Committees to propose schemes for approval by the Secretary of State after consultation. Once these facilities were available, courts would be notified of them.

Local authorities would be under a duty to return children home as soon as possible if they were in residential care but there would be a comprehensive system of residential care for those not boarded out; there was a need for variety of provision with some establishments continuing to offer education and treatment, others therapy and some secure or specialised provision. Nonetheless the authors envisaged no reduction in the overall need for residential care.

Observation and assessment centres would undertake residential and day assessments with the legal distinction between remand homes, reception centres and classifying schools abolished in order to make the best use of existing resources.

If young people were aged sixteen when they were taken into care or had already been on a previous order, they would remain in care until they were nineteen; otherwise, they would remain in care until eighteen.

In Section V Community homes for children and young people, the authors set out their vision for an integrated system created out of a partnership between the public and voluntary sectors; most homes would need to be local to facilitate working with families but there would need to be some national facilities.

Local authorities would be expected to develop a comprehensive plan for residential facilities and for intermediate treatment under the aegis of a Joint Planning Committee. This would prepare and submit a comprehensive plan to the Secretary of State specifying the future function of existing homes in consultation with voluntary organisations and schemes of intermediate treatment. It would be open to the Joint Planning Committee to suggest that some facilities should continue but outside the community homes framework.

There would be new categories of voluntary homes established in agreement with voluntary managers who could obtain permission to change this status in exceptional cases; these would be introduced over a seven year period. Voluntary homes outside the system would become voluntary registered homes; those in the system would no longer need to be registered. Approved schools that could not find a role would be able to surrender their certificate and the normal rules would apply.

In Section VI Research, development and advisory services, the authors set out the restructuring of the Advisory Council in Child Care to include representatives of local authorities, voluntary organisations, universities and other bodies under an independent chairman. The Children’s Inspectorate would continue but with an advisory rather than a regulatory function, focusing primarily on the observance of rules and regulations and liaison with Joint Planning Committees. There would also be a Development Group to stimulate development.

In Section VII Finance, the authors state that support would come via the rate support grant.

In Section VIII Summary of main proposals, the authors stress the importance of the family and the need for any action to take account of family and social background, to help parents take responsibility and to preserve links with the community. For this varied and flexible measures will be needed with family proceedings only initiated where necessary, such as where parents are unable to provide control.

This section concludes with a summary of the proposed changes and the consequent legal proceedings and options.

Appendix A sets out the restrictions on prosecution of young people aged 14 and under 17, Appendix B minor and consequential changes, Appendix C intermediate treatment and Appendix D the new community homes system.


In the light of the fierce debate generated by the White Paper The child, the family and the young offender (Home Office, 1965), this White Paper represented a considerable step back with administrative changes taking the place of the structural changes proposed in the earlier White Paper.

Responsibility for what went on before and after a court appearance was granted to professionals rather than to the courts, much as had happened with the Mental Health Act 1959 (Packman, 1975). The mish-mash of facilities that were available for a child in their own home or in a residential facility was to be expanded and streamlined through the establishment of Joint Planning Committees to oversee all out of home provision for young offenders.

These changes were very ably presented by James Callaghan, the Home Secretary, as a move to recognise the informal work and the progressive initiatives that had already been going on when he introduced the Children and Young Persons Bill (Ben, 1969) but the reality, as with the Children Act 1989, was to be completely different from the aspiration. The number of police cautions and residential disposals rose rather than declining (Packman, 1975) and by the end of the 1970s the proportion of children in care had reached its highest level since the end of the Second World War.

Though Packman (1975) argues that its fundamental weakness was that it was a compromise which was further undermined by Conservative tinkering after their 1970 election victory, its real weakness was its disease model of juvenile delinquency which led to the idea that the solution was a range of ‘treatments’ for juvenile delinquency carried out by a variety of professionals. It exemplified the point made by Nohl in 1926 that social workers regard children in trouble as ‘moral defectives’ and send them away for treatment whereas social pedagogues seek to change the situations in which children find themselves (Winkler, 2009).

Two years after the bill was passed Rutter (1971) was to show that the premises on which the White Papers and the Bill had been based were false, that most anti-social behaviour is not related to anything in a child’s past but to what is going on in the present and that the most effective interventions are those which improve the situations in which the children are living. A few years later Millham et al. (1975) were to find that young people who were persistent delinquents came from difficult social backgrounds and that those who were not had supportive families. Sadly, these lessons have yet to be learned by governments.


Home Office (1965) The child, the family and the young oender Cmnd 2742 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Millham, S, Bullock, R and Cherrett, P (1975) After grace, teeth: a comparative study of residential experience of boys in approved schools London: Human Context See also Children Webmag March 2010

Packman, J (1975) The child’s generation: child care policy from Curtis to Houghton Oxford: Blackwell

Rutter, M (1971) Parent-child separation: psychological effects on the children Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 12 (4), 233–260

Under Big Ben (1969, May) The Children and Young Persons’ Bill, 1969 Child in Care 9 (5), 24–32

Winkler, M (2009) Why modern societies need social pedagogy more than social work In E Grupper, J Koch and F Peters (Eds) Challenges for child and youth care: a German-Israeli dialogue Chapter 1, pp. 12–31 Frankfurt/Main: IGfH-Eigenverlag Paper presented to the Joint German–Israeli Seminar on Social Pedagogy. Kfar-Saba, Israel 2007

2 thoughts on “Children in trouble”

  1. Great web site for the White Paper Children in Trouble 1968;

    I have a treasured hard copy but seek an electronic copy of both this and its more radical 1966 predecessor White Paper The Child, the Family and the Young Offender.

    Can anyone help please? These two documents set the standard for future legislation.

    Ironically they are now still able inform the reintegration of Youth Justice within Children’s Social Care asserting as they do the absence of any distinction between the deprived and the depraved.

  2. I don’t think you can get an electronic versions of either of these. The government started creating electronic copies of things around 1988 and has gradually added digitised versions of earlier Acts and Statutory Instruments where they still have a hard copy.

    You can photocopy them in the British Library and it is possible that, in due course, they may get round to digitising them.

    You can get a photocopy of the draft of The Child, the Family and the Young Offender from the National Archives.


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