Green Paper “Every Child Matters” Companion Youth Justice Document “Next Steps” Response by the Association of YOT Managers Introduction 1. It is disappointing that the youth justice document has been issued separately to the Green Paper itself. It reinforces the separateness of YOTs and youth justice issues from children‟s services. 2. Whilst many of the proposals set out in Next Steps are to be welcomed, it is nonetheless disappointing that both Next Steps and the Green Paper‟s few references to work with young offenders are somewhat punitive in tone and that Next Steps itself is overly concerned with enforcement, compulsion and sentencing. Whilst not condoning unacceptable offending behaviour by young people, more emphasis on ways of improving their life chances, thus reducing the risk factors and likelihood of re-offending, would have been more helpful in the context of a Green Paper entitled “Every Child Matters”. 3. There are potentially significant resource implications in relation to a number of the proposals set out in Next Steps that are not acknowledged in the document. Green Paper Consultation question “How can we ensure that serious welfare concerns are appropriately dealt with alongside criminal proceedings” 4. It is not clear what particular proposals within the Green Paper have generated this question, given that offending behaviour generally and the youth justice proposals have been kept so separate from the main body of the Green Paper. Whilst the Green Paper does acknowledge the need to tackle the underlying causes of anti-social and offending behaviour, it is rather tacked on as an after thought to what is presented as the primary response - that of ensuring that young people face up to their actions and redress the harm they have caused. Whilst the latter is clearly important, there ought to be rather more emphaisis on addressing the welfare needs of young people, improving their life chances and therefore reduce the risk factors which increase the likelihood of a young person being involved in offending behaviour. 5. The Youth Offending Team model, being multi-agency and which also straddles the criminal justice system and the welfare system, is undoubtedly the right approach and ensures that the welfare needs of young people are addressed and as a consequence the risk factors can be reduced. The YOT cannot be seen simply as a correctional service operating in isolation from mainstream childrens' services. There need to be strong proactive partnership links between YOTs and other children‟s services if serious welfare concerns are to be addressed alongside criminal proceedings. Next Steps Basic Approach (paras 2-3) 6. We are disapointed that there is no intention to consult on the age of criminal responsibility despite concerns expressed by a number of organisations including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pre-court Interventions (paras 4-5) 7. Any initiative that increases opportunities to divert young people away from the court system is welcomed. While recognising that the Reprimand and Final Warning schemes are proving their worth we would welcome increased flexibility in relation to issuing secondary reprimands and final warnings in limited cases where further minor offences are concerned. However we do not support any proposal which might extend fixed penalty notices to juveniles. General Sentencing Principles and Structure (para 6) 8. We welcome the introduction of a single main sentencing purpose of preventing offending supported by a range of other requirements to be taken into account. We would be concerned however if this results in the courts no longer having to take account of the welfare needs of children and young people and the impact that sentences might have on their welfare. Families and Communities (paras 8-9) 9. We welcome a “whole family” approach and believe it would be useful to endorse this through identifying standards in relation to levels of parental contact as part of the supervision of all orders in the revised national standards. Whilst we would endorse an increased availability of parenting programmes, increased use of compulsion is not necessarily the most constructive approach. However, irrespective of whether increased parental programmes are provided on a voluntary or statutory basis, the additional resource implications need to be recognised. The promotion of family group conferencing is also welcomed. However, this should not be seen as the answer to everything, with due regard given to other forms of specialist intervention with families such as Systemic Family Therapy and Multi Systemic Therapy. 10. We are concerned about the potential for criminalising parents for non- attendance at court particularly given the difficulty some parents would have in attending court due to other childcare responsibilities and the fact that such measures are likely to disproportionately impact on mothers. In our view the focus needs to be on how we can better engage parents voluntarily and identifying potential obstacles to engagement through consultation with them. Anecdotal evidence suggests some parents are reluctant to seek support from YISPs run by YOTs because of the stigma attached. In the longer term the Association believes YISPs should become the responsibility of Children‟s Trusts. Policing, public order and courts (paras 10-12) 11. Disappointingly, para 10 simply restates what is already in the Anti- Social Behaviour Bill. However the idea of a Young Defendant‟s Pack is positive, as is the notion of assigning a YOT officer or other professional to prepare young people and carers for court hearings. If this service is to be offered to all young people appearing before the courts, however, there would be significant resource implications. In reality the push to reduce the time between arrest and senrtence is likely to mean there is little opportunity to engage with young people and their carers before the first court appearance. 12. The proposal to adopt a different approach to the strenghtened youth court proposed by Lord Justice Auld is very much regretted. We would prefer that all cases involving juveniles who are currently committed to the Crown Court for trial or sentence should be put before a youth court consisting of a specially trained judge or recorder sitting with two experienced youth court magistrates. Such cases should be heard in private, as should all cases regarding juveniles including those appearing in civil proceedings. Remands (para13) 13. The remand proposals, as far as they go, are positive and we particularly applaud the expansion of remand fostering and small community bail hostels. We would question the presumption that the latter should only be located in major cities which overlooks the chronic shortage of suitable accomodation in rural areas. 14. However,there appears to be a missed opportunity here to equalise the remand criteria for all juveniles. The introduction to „Next Steps‟ states the intention to continue to operate a distinct youth justice system. This is confirmed with the proposal to simplify the range of juvenile sentences and the introduction of the expanded action plan order, while the community rehabilitation order, community punishment order and community punishment and rehabilitation order will no longer being available for 16 and 17 year olds. However, for remand purposes 17 year olds will continue to be treated as adults and when arrested will not require an appropriate adult to be present when interviewed despite the fact that they are likely to still be living with their parent or guardian who will be expected to accompany the young person to court if they are charged. Sentencing in the Community (paras 14-19) 15. The proposal to allow the imposition of a further referral order is positive, as is the proposed single action plan order replacing the nine existing non-cutodial sentences. However, greater clarity is required in relation to the menu of interventions to be provided and the degree of prescription envisaged in their provision. Few YOTs will be able to provide the full range of interventions referred to in para 17 and without additional resources YOTs will not be in a postion to provide them. 16. Similarly we are very concerned should YOTs be expected to manage Action Plan Orders on 16 and 17 year olds who might previously have been expected to receive a community rehabilitation order – or other Probation managed order – that the resource implications are fully addressed with an appropriatr re-distribution of funds from the NPS. 17. We would also be concerned about the implications for National Standards contact levels, given the differentials which currently exist between the adult standards governing community rehabilitation orders (weekly contact) and orders such as the current action plan and supervision orders (twice weekly for first three months). If twice weekly contact would be required for all the proposed action plan orders there would again be resource implications. Coming on top of the very significant additional demands that have resulted from the introduction of referral orders (which now represent 30% of all court sentences) YOTs are simply not able to absorb further demands. 18. The Association does not believe there will be any additional benefit in introducing child behaviour contracts. They are unlikely to add anything to the existing contracts drawn up with young people subject to community sentences and it is unclear what sanctions might be imposed if a young person was not to comply with the contract. 19. While the Association is in agreement with the intention to increase local awareness of reparation schemes we are concerned that any increase in the availability of such schemes should be supported by additional resources. Reparation schemes are very time consuming to set up, require full risk assessments to be carried and the young people involved require close supervision. 20. The suggestion that the experience of the DfES‟ treatment should be drawn upon to help design capacity for fostering for young offenders is sensible but again there is no clarity about how this resource would be funded. The final sentence that YOTs would also promote offender- based outreach services for community sentence and custody leavers seems also to be lacking in clarity as to what is envisaged by such outreach services and who would provide them. 21. Finally, although we support the reduction in the numbers of different orders we are concerned that this could result in young people being quickly pushed up tariff. A tiered system of action plan orders may assist with this as would the issuing of clear guidance to sentencers about ensuring consideration is given to proportionality in relation to their use. More Intensive Sentences, including Custody (paras 20-24) 22. We welcome the intention to ensure that ISSP is provided as the main alternative to custody and recognise that for some young people a longer programme would be more effective. The proposed new ISDO, however, appears somewhat confusing and whilst it seems to be offering sentencers a very clear community based alternative to the second option of custody, there is a danger that for some sentencers custody may be the preferred option. It will be crucial that very clear guidance is provided for sentencers on when each of the options is appropriate. 23. Of more concern is the intention to remove the current restriction on such custody for 12-14 year olds unless he or she was persistent. Continuing to erode the age at which children are locked up is at odds with our notion of how a civilised society should be dealing with children in trouble. 24. We strongly endorse the need to improve the protection for children and young people held in juvenile custody and to ensure vulnerable boys and girls are held in better quality accommodation. However, this is simply a restating of the current position. Staff and Organisation (paras 25-26) 25. Para 25 also simply restates the current YJB strategy and doesn‟t appear to add anything to it. However, we would strongly endorse the view set out in para 26 that the location of YOTs within local authorities has worked well, as have the partnership arrangements with the police, probation and health. We agree that the need for YOTs to have good working links with other services is important. Whilst YOTs will need to continue to straddle both the criminal justice and welfare systems it is crucial that they continue to have strong links with other childrens services and play a full role in local crime reduction partnerships.