In the last month, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has held two meetings:
- Monday 6 February – Respect and Anti-Social Behaviour: with presentations from members of Young NCB and the UK Youth Parliament, and Pam Hibbert (Barnardo’s)
- Monday 13 February – Youth Justice: with speakers Professor Rod Morgan (Chair, Youth Justice Board for England and Wales) and Ellie Roy (Chief Executive, Youth Justice Board for England and Wales)
Respect and Anti-Social Behaviour
The Government recently published its Respect Action Plan, outlining new measures for tackling anti-social behaviour (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/respect-action-plan). This meeting was an opportunity to hear the views of young people on respect and anti-social behaviour, and to discuss the measures in the plan. The meeting began with a brief presentation by Pam Hibbert (Principal Policy Officer, Barnardo’s), highlighting the main aspects of the Respect Action Plan, followed by presentations by young people from Young NCB and the UK Youth Parliament, and then questions and discussion.
Presentations by Members of Young NCB
Members of Young NCB presented their views on how problems surrounding respect and anti-social behaviour could be addressed. They focused on:
- Workshops with ex-offenders and young people to teach young people about the consequences of anti-social and criminal behaviour
- Workshops for teaching parents and children about respect.
- Computer games to demonstrate the consequences of drug taking or happy-slapping to young people, like the knife-crime game launched by the Met Police.
- Community events on respect, racism and anti-social behaviour
- Youth clubs
- Youth Mayors
- Rehabilitation to help integrate ex-offenders and other vulnerable young people
Young NCB members also presented their views on the role of the government, media and community in tackling anti-social behaviour. They said that:
- The Government could advertise respect workshops for young people and MPs and in every community, and it could fund the development of skills for promoting respect in different ways.
- The media should represent young people more positively, as this will make young people feel better about themselves. The media should also invite young people to talk about their experiences of anti-social behaviour, and to advise on how to promote respect.
- In the wider community, TV programmes and advertising could raise issues of anti-social behaviour and promote activities for young people; role models can teach young people and adults about respect; and accessories such as erasers or rulers could be decorated with phrases that promote respect.
Presentation by Pam Hibbert (Principal Policy Officer, Barnardo’s)
Pam highlighted the following measures in the Government’s Respect Action Plan, published January 2006:
- Activities for young people, the National Youth Voluntary Service and Youth Opportunity Cards.
- Government’s commitment to bring an end to unofficial exclusions.
- Parents to be responsible for their excluded child for the first 5 days of exclusion, with sanctions attached if the child is found in a public place without good reason during school hours. Local authority to provide full time alternative provision from the sixth day of exclusion, but with no sanctions attached if this responsibility is not met.
- Duty to be placed on local authorities to identify children who are missing from school and from the school roll.
(Education-related measures requiring legislation are expected in the
Education Bill, expected late-February.)
- National Parenting Academy to be established to provide training to those who work with parents; parenting recommendations to be included in pre-court reports; financial incentives for young parents to attend parenting classes, with sanctions attached.
- Intensive family support for families with the most difficulties (‘problem families’ in the Respect Action Plan).
- Anti-social behaviour: further £45 million for preventive work; consultation on evictions from any residential or licensed premises; sanctions (such as withdrawal of Housing Benefit) for households evicted for anti-social behaviour who refuse intensive family support.
- Powers to apply for parenting orders could be extended to social housing landlords and Community Safety Officers.
Presentation by Mohammed Iqbal (UK Youth Parliament)
Mohammed raised the following key points:
- Activities for young people needed to tackle anti-social behaviour; engaging young people in activities they enjoy (such as music), while at the same time teaching them about respect.
- Involving young people in the community (e.g. volunteering); schemes need to be more widely promoted to young people.
- Working with young children in primary schools to address anti-social behaviour in the long-term.
Areas of discussion were:
- Responsibilities of local authorities as carers of looked after children in relation to the parenting provisions.
- Youth clubs and other locations for young people to spend time: preferred activities, opening hours, problems associated with violence and young people hanging around after closing time, mobile youth clubs.
- Lack of youth workers employed by local authorities.
- Children of the military living abroad.
- Safety: young people as victims of anti-social behaviour, and transport to and from activities.
- Extended schools.
- Variety of programmes for addressing anti-social behaviour: mediation, early intervention etc.
- Rural young people.
- Older young people volunteering to support younger ones, through National Youth Voluntary Service.
- Parenting classes for parents, and parenting education for schoolchildren.
- Involving young people in governing youth clubs and extended schools.
- Gender differences and respect.
Ellie Roy (Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board) gave a presentation on the role and responsibilities of the YJB and the interaction between its work and the Every Child Matters programme.
The Role of the YJB
The YJB’s functions under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 are to:
- monitor the performance of the youth justice system and of youth justice services;
- identify and promote effective practice;
- commission research;
- advise the Home Secretary;
- make grants to youth offending teams (YOTs);
- purchase places for children and young people remanded or sentenced and operate a placements system.
The aim of the YJB is to prevent offending. Approximately 70% of the YJB’s £393 million annual budget is spent on places in custody, 3,200 at any one time. It is an aim to reduce numbers in custody. This in turn would allow more investment in prevention and early intervention. Current priorities address key risk factors – for example engagement in education, training and employment, accommodation, mental health and substance misuse needs.
Ellie gave an overview of current successes including: multi-agency approaches, as enshrined in YOTs; targeted early intervention through youth inclusion units; referral orders; parenting programmes; Resettlement and Aftercare Provision (RAP). Results from the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme (ISSP) have shown a reconviction rate of 80-90%, although the rate of offending and the seriousness of offences has decreased.
Every Child Matters and the work of the Youth Justice Board
The YJB welcomes the Every Child Matters Programme (ECM), and wants more joining-up of services, multi-agency working, early intervention and information sharing to support comprehensive planning. Youth justice is integrated into the ECM programme, with duties on YOTs to promote the well being of children and to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The YJB wants to ensure that, with the development of Children’s Trusts, YOTs have strong links with children’s services as well as their criminal justice role. The focus on the young person must not be lost, and YOTs must have strong links with new arrangements as well as their criminal justice role.
Professor Rod Morgan (Chair of the Youth Justice Board) spoke about the strategic issues facing the YJB:
- The relationship between YOTs and mainstream services
The proportion of staff seconded to YOTs by parent agencies has progressively decreased as these staff members have become permanent. There is therefore a risk that YOTs become silos in their own right, divorced from mainstream services. Some key agencies are withdrawing from this area of work, and once children are involved in the criminal justice systems, mainstream services feel that the responsibility for those children then falls to YOTs. YOTs must work with Children’s Trusts and other criminal justice agencies, in order to facilitate the effective access of children and young people to mainstream services.
- Numbers of juveniles being prosecuted
Before the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the criminal justice system was criticised because children could be given several cautions (although very few were) allowing children to seemingly offend with impunity. Now, a child or young person will be reprimanded if they own up, then given a final warning, and if they offend a third time, they will be brought before court. 200,000 children are brought before the courts per year.
The proportion of children being prosecuted today has increased to 50%, from one-third 10 years ago. Judges complain that children are brought before the youth court with minor offences, arguing that more effective work could be done pre-court, and academic observers have commented that traditional informal controls have reduced. The YJB believes that natural, informal control in situ must be reinforced, in order to avoid the criminalisation of children and young people.
- Numbers of juveniles in custody
There are approximately 2,800 under 18-year-olds in custody at present, two times as many as 10 years ago. The YJB welcomes the Home Office’s endorsement, in its A Five-Year Strategy for Protecting the Public and Reducing Re-offending , of the YJB target to reduce numbers in custody by 10%. The YJB wants to use Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes more regularly, and custody options less. However much is done to improve conditions for children in custody, the prognosis for these children is always poor, and reconviction rates show that lower tariffs are most effective.
- Working with children and young people in custody
The YJB is concerned about better providing for the minority who are grave or persistent offenders, who need a period in custody. While conditions and programmes, health services, and the provision of advocates have improved, the criminal justice service needs to do a better job in safeguarding these children and young people. The system needs a more dedicated workforce with better training and continuity in retaining staff. More sophisticated methods for working with these children are required, so that the workforce may be less reliant on methods physical restraint.
Questions and comments
Areas of discussion were:
- Similarities between children and young people in the youth justice system and looked after children.
- Relationships between the workforce, other services and children and young people.
- Physical restraint.
- The prevention agenda and looked after children.
- Age of criminal responsibility.
- To be added to the email mailing list to receive minutes and invitations to meetings,
- For copies of minutes from any of the meetings,
- For any further information about the Group.
A Five-Year Strategy for Protecting the Public and Reducing Re-offending (Home Office, Feb 2006). http://noms.homeoffice.gov.uk/downloads/5-year-strategy.pdf