in the second session of the fifty-second parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the seventh day of may in the forty-sixth year of the reign of
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
EIGHTH VOLUME OF SESSION 1998--99 House of Lords
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring that the families of young offenders take responsibility for their behaviour. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced the parenting order, which is currently being piloted. For young offenders, this Session's Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill introduces the referral order. That will involve them and their families attending a youth offender panel to work together to devise a programme to prevent further offending behaviour.
Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Will he confirm that experience so far indicates that it is useful to involve the family in plans for the nature of custody of a young offender and in the plans for his release, given that they have to "pick up the pieces" afterwards? I have two specific questions. Are the Government thinking of moving that same principle up the age scale to include
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I unreservedly endorse the noble Lord's first proposition. All informed research--and I pay tribute to the Prison Reform Trust, of which he is the distinguished patron--indicates that the road to criminal behaviour starts at a very early age for most delinquent offenders, and that the sooner we assist them, the better. I wish to keep an open mind on taking the scale up in terms of age. We are presently doing a degree of work in that connection with welfare-to-work schemes in prison for 18 to 25 year-olds. That can involve family contact. In respect of paying for transport to and from prison, in the context of the Crime and Disorder Act and youth offender panels, such expenditure would not be covered. There are schemes for assisting family visits to prisons. They are reasonably well publicised, not least by the Prison Reform Trust.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the steps that the Government are taking on this matter. Does he accept that young offenders' institutions really amount to prison for children and young people? Does he agree that it is better, where possible, for young people to be dealt with and, where necessary, to make recompense for their offences, outside institutions? Should not the community accept responsibility wherever possible?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I accept that if at all possible, especially in the case of young offenders, one seeks restorative justice whereby first-time offenders in particular have to make restoration to the victim, achieve reintegration into the community and, fundamentally, take responsibility for the consequences of their own behaviour. Unfortunately, it will be necessary for some to be trained in closed circumstances. Huntercombe young offenders' institution, for example, is doing remarkable pioneering work--and with the assistance of generous donations
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, is the Minister aware of research in the United States indicating that prisoners without family support are twice as likely, or even six times more likely, to offend than those who have family support? Is that not also the case with juvenile offenders? Most young offenders who come before the courts in this country are from broken families. Will the Government ensure that the central part of the new juvenile regimes that have been established will provide for the thorough involvement of the family?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am happy to agree with the theme identified by the noble Lord. The indicators for crime are known. They are: poor or broken family circumstances; families which have themselves been engaged in criminal activities; lack of work; and alcohol and drug abuse. It is important to view these matters on a wide spectrum. The work that my right honourable friend Mr Blunkett is doing in the education context is also of fundamental importance. Both the measures to which I referred--the 1998 Act and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill--put into effect the themes identified by the noble Lord.
Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the experience of restorative justice schemes, such as that run by the Thames Valley police force, reveals that the involvement of the family in identifying the criminality and the wrongness of the deeds of the young creates a framework in which they are better able to avoid criminality in the future? Would the incorporation of that process in sentencing for "custodiable" offences reduce the number of sentences taking a custodial form, thus reducing the probability of future offending by those young people?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I absolutely agree. I believe that the work done on the Thames Valley pilot scheme is first rate. It is based on the principles of restorative justice of which I spoke a moment or two ago. We believe that these measures assist families, some of whom have neither inner resources nor outward help. I believe that they are key to the problems with which we are wrestling; namely, the reduction of crime particularly among young offenders.
Lord Laming: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the facilities for family visiting at some young offenders' institutions are less than adequate? Can the Minister say whether the criticisms made by the inspectorate are now being addressed?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, in my experience, provision for family visits is patchy and variable. That should not be tolerated. The work that the chief inspector does is extremely helpful in pointing out
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, we have commissioned guidance to enable mental health professionals to provide the most effective treatment for people with schizophrenia. As part of the new money that we are making available for mental health in 1999-2000, we have allocated an extra £2.5 million for the new anti-psychotic medications.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and action. A recent survey shows that rationing of these medicines is widespread. Does the Minister agree that greater account should now be taken of the long-term savings through fewer hospital admissions because of these drugs?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that the cost-effectiveness of treatment should be looked at in the round rather than simply comparing the cost of one drug as against another. That is why we have commissioned the British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists to produce guidelines, which will be published later this year, on effective treatment for schizophrenia that cover both drug and non-drug treatment. I hope that that will be one of the driving forces to challenge unacceptable variations in access to care.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Department of Health's recent paper Safer Services on homicides and suicides by those with mental illness made clear how important was the availability of so-called atypical drugs to ensure compliance. Can the Minister say specifically what action the department is taking in that respect?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the major new report on suicide and homicide by psychiatric patients is very important and highlights changes that could improve the safety of mental health care. There is often a perception that suicide and homicide by people with mental illness cannot be either predicted or prevented. I believe that the report of Professor Appleby in particular shows that there are lessons to learn and steps to be taken to help reduce those tragic incidents. I hope that the national
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