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					                              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.

				
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