Justice Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1547 The proposed abolition of the Youth Justice Board

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Justice Committee

on Tuesday 11 October 2011

Members present:

Sir Alan Beith (Chair)

Jeremy Corbyn

Claire Perry

Yasmin Qureshi

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Enver Solomon, Chair, Standing Committee for Youth Justice and Policy Director, The Children’s Society, and Penelope Gibbs, Director of Out of Trouble, Prison Reform Trust, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Welcome. Ms Gibbs, you are the director of the Out of Trouble Project in the Prison Reform Trust and, Mr Solomon, as well as being director of the Children’s Society, you are the Chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice.

Enver Solomon: That is right, yes.

Chair: We are delighted to have you with us and very much appreciate your help this morning in our inquiry into youth justice.

Q2 Jeremy Corbyn: The indicators used by the Government claim that the effectiveness of youth justice is showing positive trends but that the reoffending rate is still very disturbingly high. Do you think the system works and what do you think you can do to reduce reoffending?

Enver Solomon: One needs to look at the system as a whole and give credit where credit is due, particularly in terms of the number of children going into custody in the last couple of years, which is down by about 20%. That is a significant achievement, given the fact that custody levels have been on an upward trend for a number of years. As you point out, reoffending rates have remained stubbornly high for many years. That is a reflection particularly when it comes to custody-reoffending rates tend to be lower for community-based interventions-of how custody has for a long time been failing to turn around the lives of children from very troubled backgrounds with very complex needs. That is often because we are using a system which is primarily focused on public protection to deal with children who have very complex welfare needs. It is not a system designed to deal with that multiplicity of problems.

There are other areas where there could have been improvements that have been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, particularly in relation to resettlement, which remains a cause for concern. There needs to be much better co-ordination of how agencies support young people when they come out of custody. The reality is that many of the children who go into the youth justice system are there because they have a high welfare need as well as a need to face up to their actions and take responsibility for their behaviour, but we have a system which is designed fundamentally to do something other than address the causes of their offending behaviour.

Penelope Gibbs: I agree with what Enver has said. The reoffending rates get worse the higher up the tariff one goes. At the bottom level, which is diversion, reprimand, final warning and referral order, which is the least onerous sentence, the reoffending rates are much better. As you get to custody and the step before it, the rates are not good and we would all agree with that. There needs to be a better evidence base for what works for more entrenched child offenders who commit many offences and get those higher level disposals. For instance, there is the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme. In addition, I agree with Enver that the answers for those children are definitely not just in the criminal justice system.

I will just quote a bit from a study we did about the population in custody. Of those, 50% have been excluded from school; 50% have run away or absconded; and 30% have witnessed domestic violence. These are the most socially excluded children in our country. Yes, they have offended; yes, those offences need addressing, but these other very major problems in their lives will probably cause them to continue offending unless they are addressed. To me, it is very much about the way the youth justice system interfaces mostly with children’s services but also with health services. Until this group is given the highest priority amongst those other services, we are not going to get reoffending down significantly.

Q3 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you think that the Youth Justice Board and the YOTs are the right vehicle for doing this and that they work effectively, or do we need something different?

Penelope Gibbs: YOTs work quite effectively. They could work better if local authorities worked harder to integrate what they are doing with other services. It is about prioritisation and the way local government works. The idea of a multi-agency team is definitely the right one. I am disturbed by anecdotal evidence that the multi-agency team may be becoming less multi-agency as individual agencies take their workers out of the mix. We only have anecdotal evidence, but it is there. The challenge-I do not have the answer-is to incentivise the agencies to keep putting their resources and interest into these multi-agency teams because it must be better to have a health worker, an education worker or a probation worker in the team, since we know that the problems are multiple.

It will be the beginning of YOTs working worse if the multi-agency model dissolves. The multi-agency model allows at least for the links to be maintained, but one area where it has definitely failed is in children’s services, ironically, where the trend has been for children’s services not to second social workers to the multi-agency team and, instead, for YOTs to employ youth justice workers who have never worked in children’s services. Children’s services are the most important agency to have links with YOTs. Somehow that arrangement has broken down, partly because of the crisis in staffing within children’s services anyway, but that is something which we should try and improve over the long term.

Enver Solomon: There is a fundamental principle here to which the Standing Committee for Youth Justice and the Children’s Society subscribes, which is that there should be a discrete, child-focused body responsible for all aspects of youth justice. That was one of the principles behind the creation of the Youth Justice Board. That principle should be the key factor in determining how structures are configured going forward. We firmly believe that there needs to be, as I say, a discrete, child-focused body that is responsible for youth justice. It is particularly crucial in terms of the arrangements for commissioning and placement of children in custody in the secure estates-for it not to be integrated into the adult estate.

Q4 Chair: Are you talking about a local or a national body?

Enver Solomon: There needs to be a national body.

Penelope Gibbs: I would agree with that.

Enver Solomon: The Standing Committee and the Children’s Society were particularly concerned when the YJB was no longer sponsored by dual Departments, or what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Ministry of Justice. It moved over to just being sponsored by the Ministry of Justice under the coalition Government. Given the multiplicity of needs that Penelope highlighted-I would add that 4 out of 10 children in custody have been on the child protection register-the Department responsible for the welfare and health of looked-after children needs to have responsibility for the youth justice system as well, because a significant number of children in the youth justice system are looked after.

On the make-up of YOTs, the multi-agency, multi-disciplinary model is the right and most appropriate one, but it is a question of whether it is genuinely multi-agency and multi-disciplinary. Given the current arrangements and changes at the local level, that is at risk and I do not think it has always been effectively delivered. For example, the involvement of health in YOTs has always been quite challenging, and the proportion of funding that goes to YOTs from health has been the lowest out of all the sponsoring agencies. There have been particular issues relating to the integration of health into the multi-agency model.

Q5 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you think that the way in which the youth statistics are collected and the indices we are using on studying young offending are the right ones? Do you think we should be looking at other statistics as well?

Enver Solomon: It is important not to just focus on reoffending. Reoffending is important and very significant, but, if you look at all the literature and the academic research, the powerful message that comes out is that children change in a way that is not a simple process. In other words, they will take two steps forward and one step back. We need to capture the progress and the incremental stages of moving away from offending and recognise the importance of softer outcomes, improving relationships with peers and parents, beginning to engage in education training programmes where they have not previously engaged, and engaging in a substance misuse programme and some kind of therapeutic intervention.

As is very clear from the research, children do not just stop offending. Most children grow out of crime. The evidence is very clear about that. Those who are particularly entrenched in their offending behaviour will take steps on the road to moving away from a life of crime. We need to reflect that in the data and how we judge progress for all those who work with these children, who have very complex needs.

Q6 Claire Perry: I completely agree with you that these are unbelievably complex individuals, certainly from what I have seen in organisations like the St Giles Trust, which is engaging with young offenders through a lot of its work, particularly with gangs. My problem with statutory multi-agency bodies, certainly in my constituency, is that everybody does that and they cannot speak to each other effectively because of data protection. Who, in your experience, leads these teams best? Is there one agency that gets to grips with a particular offender very effectively and, in your view, delivers the most results? I worry that in multi-agency teams there is not accountability and success is not necessarily achieved by just getting lots of people together to talk about a particular offender.

Penelope Gibbs: YOTs are an example of multi-agency teams where it does not just work like that. YOTs consist of staff who stay normally for a minimum of two or three years. Therefore, the multi-agency team has a true meaning in the YOT sense, in that the staff work permanently together as a team, normally all sited within the local authority even if they come from a different agency. They work well where all the team members are seconded for a reasonable length of time and they are led by a good YOT manager within a local authority. They work well where the head of children’s services, the leader, the chief executive and all the lead people within that local authority have an interest in what is happening in the YOT and where links with the other services are good. It is the unsung triumph of multi-agency teams in that it is a true team and other people could learn from them.

The fall in child custody of 20% or so over the last two years is interesting in that it has happened against a backdrop of a rise in the adult population in custody. Between these various players, there has been incredible success in working together to achieve this fall in child custody.

Q7 Claire Perry: So that I understand the team model, these are people seconded from the various agencies who then effectively go native as part of the YOT team.

Penelope Gibbs: Yes.

Q8 Claire Perry: Why does it matter where they come from? What I am hearing from what you have said is that what determines success is how seriously children’s services and the local authority take the problem. That seems to be the thing that opens doors.

Penelope Gibbs: It is part of it. It is also the quality of the individuals working within the team. The reason why it matters where they come from is that they come with their expertise into the team, and that continues to be used. For instance, there are some teams where the health professional is an expert in learning disability. There is a very high incidence of children with learning disabilities in the youth justice system. Often, they are undiagnosed until they get into the youth justice system. Where you have that worker in the team, they are tasked with assessing the children coming into the youth justice system, accessing the right services for them and following that through. They do not perform the same role as the youth justice workers who supervise. People in the team retain a role relative to their expertise and they retain some links with their home agency and thus the staff and services, which is crucial to the success of accessing the services.

Q9 Claire Perry: Are they on permanent secondment or do they have to leave the teams after a time?

Penelope Gibbs: It differs from YOT to YOT. Some enjoy it so much that they stay, which I do not think is ideal. As the model was originally set up, the idea was a two or three-year secondment, at which point the person goes back to their agency and another is sent, so that there is always a refreshing of contact and you keep the links as fresh as possible.

Q10 Claire Perry: Is there an attempt made to extrapolate what works for an individual YOT to the broader population? How much do you say, "This is fantastic. This team is really driving down reoffending or helping young offenders to engage with different services"? How much work is done showing other YOTs what works very well?

Enver Solomon: This is what the YJB has tried to do, with differing degrees of success. When the Youth Justice Board gives evidence, I am sure it will be able to demonstrate some of the ways in which it has attempted to do that. There is more scope for peer support and peer review, for high-quality YOTs supporting those YOTs that have been performing less well in particular areas and for sharing good practice. Instead of just a top-down approach, there should also be a bottom-up approach. We already have provision now in children’s services; the Children’s Improvement Board at the DfE is doing a peer support and review programme. That should include youth justice and YOTs.

Q11 Claire Perry: What about publishing reoffending rates by YOT and total transparency as to results?

Penelope Gibbs: That is available.1

Q12 Claire Perry: Is it publicly available?

Penelope Gibbs: Since the YJB website was swallowed up by the Ministry of Justice website, it is difficult to find any information.

Q13 Claire Perry: A recommendation would be to make those numbers extremely exclusive and transparent.

Penelope Gibbs: Yes. They are not as transparent as they used to be or as easy to find.

Enver Solomon: On a local area they are available.2

Q14 Claire Perry: It is the comparison. I want to know in Wiltshire that my team is doing a rubbish or a fantastic job relative to Hampshire.

Enver Solomon: Yes.

Q15 Chair: Are you saying that since the website went over to the Ministry of Justice there has been a loss of information?

Penelope Gibbs: It is probably there somewhere. It is incredibly difficult to find.

Q16 Chair: It is much harder to find, is it?

Penelope Gibbs: Much harder, yes.

Q17 Claire Perry: My understanding is that the changes in ownership of YJB mean the bringing back of an unelected, unaccountable quango into the MoJ, running it completely distinctly from NOMS. People recognise the importance of a stand-alone body. Does that separation address some of the concerns that your organisation raised about this being swallowed up by NOMS?

Penelope Gibbs: There is an interesting phrase in the consultation on the Public Bodies Bill, which is that the team in the MoJ would continue to drive policy on reoffending in the secure estate. I was worried by that because "continue to drive" is slightly vague to me. That would still allow for all the commissioning of the secure estate places to go over to NOMS. You can have somebody driving something and somebody else commissioning it in NOMS.

Q18 Claire Perry: We want our Ministers to drive policy. That is what they are paid to do. Your concern is that the commissioning of services under NOMS would be sub-optimal.

Penelope Gibbs: Yes. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it very clear that policy and practice on offenders under 18 should be separated out from adults for good reason. The needs of children are very distinct. Our concern about NOMS is that their overwhelming expertise is about adults. If you look at the secure estate, the worst places for children to be are the juvenile YOIs. I am not saying that they are all terrible, but throughout the SCYJ and children’s and penal reform charities we would all say that, ideally, children should not be in YOIs. We do not think it suitable even to contemplate allowing an organisation that is 90% or more involved in running adult establishments to commission places for children.

Q19 Claire Perry: At the moment that is not an issue because the Department has said that it will sit outside.

Penelope Gibbs: Exactly.

Q20 Claire Perry: Let us say that the worst happened and it was swallowed up by NOMS. If it is being let as completely separate contracts and run by a separate team-

Enver Solomon: It is not going to happen. History tells us that before the creation of the YJB we had a system that was supposed to have a discrete child focus within central Government and it never happened. The strategic priorities of NOMS would quickly dominate and overwhelm youth justice. This goes back to your original question about YOTs and why they should be multi-agency. We do not want a silo approach, especially given the multiplicity of children’s needs. The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act specifically set out the statutory partners of YOTs in order to ensure that there was buy-in from other agencies to turn around the lives of these children. Agencies in health, education and so forth have often failed these children previously. Unless you have buy-in from those agencies to allocate resource and professional expertise, to work with these children, you are not going to reduce reoffending and move them towards a constructive way forward and away from a life of crime. That needs to be mirrored at the centre and at the local level.

Q21 Claire Perry: Your worry is that, if this quango is brought in-house, that will impact on the ability to work on a multi-agency basis.

Enver Solomon: Ultimately, it will be viewed through the prism of justice, and the Ministry of Justice is not there to deal with children’s welfare needs. It is there for other good, proper and right reasons. If you want to ensure a holistic response to children who have holistic needs and are where they are because other agencies have failed them, you need to reflect that in your structure of the system right from the very top to the very bottom.

Q22 Claire Perry: The funding for YOTs is still a multiple of sources, despite the move.

Penelope Gibbs: Yes.

Q23 Claire Perry: All you are really doing is bringing the top layer into the MoJ. The funding remains multi-agency or multi-Department, does it not, going forward?

Enver Solomon: The grant that comes from the centre is made up of funds that came from Department for Education, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Q24 Claire Perry: That remains unchanged.

Enver Solomon: As it stands, that remains unchanged. It might change because as I understand it-the YJB will be able to clarify–the Home Office element of the funds might move to the local area in the restructured police framework with police commissioners. But there is a principle here that goes back to the UN Convention, which is that there needs to be a discrete, separate focus on children. That needs to reflect the multiplicity of needs of those children.

Q25 Claire Perry: I agree with you, but there also needs to be a huge attempt made to drive down reoffending rates, which are still at 74% for the children in custody.

Enver Solomon: Indeed.

Q26 Claire Perry: We are all about pragmatism, not just principles, and if we are saying that there is still a separate organisation that has multi-discipline funding I do not think we would be in breach of the UN Convention by bringing a quango in-house.

Enver Solomon: We know how government works.

Q27 Claire Perry: We would like to try and change that, wouldn’t we? That is why we are here.

Enver Solomon: If we want joined-up government, we need to have arrangements at the centre which will facilitate joined-up government.

Q28 Claire Perry: And a huge focus on this problem.

Enver Solomon: Exactly. Our concern is that if you just sit youth justice in one Department that has a primary focus on adults, then you will not get that joined-up approach and you will not get the discrete focus that is required.

Q29 Chair: Are you saying that it should be moved to a different Department?

Enver Solomon: Ideally, yes.

Penelope Gibbs: Yes. It should be with the DfE.

Enver Solomon: As the main sponsor, but the previous dual sponsorship arrangement was much better.

Q30 Claire Perry: The YJB has always been sponsored by the MoJ. It is a quango that is paid for by the Ministry of Justice currently. That is the sponsoring Department.

Enver Solomon: When it was set up, it was sponsored by the MoJ. Then it was sponsored jointly during the latter period of the previous Government by DCSF-the Department for Children, Schools and Families-and the MoJ, so it had dual sponsorship.

Q31 Claire Perry: Who, in your view, should be on the advisory board of stakeholders that is being talked about, which is an attempt to keep this very important multi-agency focus?

Penelope Gibbs: If it is going to be done, it needs to have representatives of local government but also specifically all those agencies that feed into YOTs. It has to have health, expertise in children’s services and so on. Equally, there should be representation from the voluntary sector. When you are talking about multi-agency models which do not work and people just coming for meetings, that is the danger, isn’t it? There are a lot of advisory boards across Government that feel they do not really make any difference. YOTs do make a difference because they have powers, jobs, etc. If this advisory board is going to have any meaning, it needs to be given a very clear remit. It needs to have regular reports which are published and some means of reporting to this Committee or to the Minister. There needs to be a proper framework for what it is supposed to do.

Enver Solomon: It is important to recognise that the current board has representation from the voluntary sector and people of academic backgrounds and experts. It has a mixture of people. The chief executive of the Children’s Society, my organisation, sits on the board. There has been an attempt to do that and there needs to continue to be an attempt to make sure that there is a reflection of all those who can bring advice from the statutory voluntary sector and academics who have knowledge of effective interventions, the evidence that is required and what works.

Q32 Yasmin Qureshi: In the discussion it has been suggested that many practitioners or people involved in dealing with youth offending do not seem to know which interventions work and which do not. The Prison Reform Trust recently said something along the same lines as well. Do you know why so little research has been conducted or why there have been so few discussions about what works for young offenders and what does not?

Penelope Gibbs: There are lots of discussions. Good practice is disseminated. What we do not have is a very good body of high-quality research about what works. We know from wider research that the one thing which is difficult to pin down is the fact that the relationship between the main worker and the child makes a huge difference. You can see that in the read-across to the Munro work on social work in children’s services. What works is to free up that person to develop a relationship and for that to be as long term as possible.

As to the reason why more work has not been done on the overall programmes that work, you will have to ask other people because I am not sure what the answer is. There are some small-scale evaluations, for instance, of multi-systemic therapy, intensive fostering and so on, which appear to show that it works. The one we would point to again and again is from a different place, Northern Ireland. Their system of restorative justice appears to work better than many approaches with children who offend. There are some very good bodies of evaluation of that restorative justice approach in Northern Ireland, which is one of the reasons why, as the Prison Reform Trust, we would always say, "Why don’t we push that a bit harder with children who offend?"

Enver Solomon: There are two principles that we know from the research. The first is that the intervention needs to be proportionate. If a child has committed a low-level offence and you give them a high-tariff intervention, it is not going to deliver an effective outcome. The evidence is very clear that early diversion away from the youth justice system has better outcomes for children in the longer term. Those who are drawn into the system at an early stage tend to go on to have higher reoffending rates.

The second critical principle is fidelity to programme development. There is very clear evidence from overseas, particularly from the States, such as the Blueprints Programme, and from some of the programmes that Penelope has referred to such as functional family therapy, multi-systemic therapy and therapeutic foster care. Such programmes demonstrate good outcomes in terms of reducing reoffending. The key to that is delivery and ensuring that there is fidelity with the programme. That requires effective implementation and ensuring that those implementing the programme are effectively trained, and I do not think that has always happened. It also requires appropriate central direction and a long-term commitment to those programmes.

We have functional family therapy, multi-systemic therapy and therapeutic foster care in this country, but small amounts of money have been allocated to them. They have not been implemented in a systematic way or on a systematic scale. New York State did it in relation to young offenders with those three therapeutic interventions in a much more systematic way and had very effective outcomes in terms of reducing reoffending rates and the numbers going into custody.

Q33 Yasmin Qureshi: What impact do you think the cuts are having on the prevention work that is carried out by YOTs? Do you still believe that that is the right body to carry out the prevention work?

Penelope Gibbs: Again, it is anecdotal, but our understanding is that a lot of the YOT prevention work is threatened by the cuts because the grant funding has gone, so a local authority in straitened circumstances has to choose how much they invest in it. Prevention is interesting. In general, what one wants is the prevention of offending through a broader focus. It is the same children who are at risk of offending, of being excluded from school, of mental health problems and going into care. There is a range of risk factors. Offending is only one of the possible outcomes to the risk factors. What is important is that that authority and the other agencies prevent very socially excluded children from falling into any of these negative outcomes of which, as I say, offending is only one.

To me, the light at the end of the tunnel is the YJB’s very innovative Custody Pathfinder pilots. They are delegating the custody budget to local authorities, whereby the local authority will pay for the bed nights for the children. It is more than one local authority. Birmingham is on its own, but most of the others are in coalitions. That will give a focus for the local authority. They can go in at the top end if they want and concentrate on people who are well into the youth justice system. What they know is that, if you look back, it is the children with very high welfare needs who end up in custody. One would hope that delegating the custody budget will prompt the local authority to look incredibly holistically at the children and to put money into prevention. That could be a very powerful and effective mechanism.

Q34 Chair: This Committee sees that as something of a model for adult provision as well.

Penelope Gibbs: Exactly. It is justice reinvestment and it is very exciting.

Q35 Jeremy Corbyn: How much effort is put into looking at the needs of young offenders before they leave and working out some sort of path of support, care and so on for them afterwards? You make the very valid point that a very large proportion of young offenders are people who have come out of care anyway, often have no wider family network to go back to and, therefore, are super-vulnerable as soon as they re-enter the community.

Enver Solomon: Are you talking about leaving custody particularly?

Q36 Jeremy Corbyn: Particularly those leaving custody, yes. I am talking about young-ish people in their late teens and early twenties.

Enver Solomon: It is a very mixed picture. This is where it has been particularly challenging and difficult to get agencies to work together. We know from talking to YOT managers, for example, that getting a child back into mainstream education is extremely challenging because often the child has been excluded and has a bad reputation, and no school wants to take them. Getting them back into a pupil referral unit or some kind of training programme is also challenging. Issues have been highlighted by research showing there are problems with finding children stable accommodation on release if their parents do not want them back home, which is often the case. There are also issues about making sure they get an appropriate referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and subsequent support. Often the help that they had whilst in custody suddenly ends when they leave the prison and there is not continuity of support.

What is required is an individual who is going to be the broker for that young person, making sure all the services are in place when they leave custody. That link has not always been there. It is very clear from the recent work on resettlement by HM Inspectorate of Prisons that that is the case. There needs to be better joining up. The resettlement consortia that the YJB are developing are trying to address that. Previously they had the Resettlement and Aftercare Programme, RAP, but that did not sufficiently address it. Unless you have a statutory requirement to support children coming out of custody in the way that there is to support children leaving care, you are not going to get the help and support required.

If I may go back to the point about prevention and early intervention, the Standing Committee on Youth Justice believes that YOTs withdrawing from prevention is not necessarily a retrograde step. I would draw the Committee’s attention to the recommendation in the Munro Review of the need for a statutory requirement of early help for all young people. If you do not have that early help in place-and it should be available before they are in the youth justice system-you are not going to get effective prevention and early intervention.

Q37 Yasmin Qureshi: Everyone recognises that a lot of young people end up in the criminal justice system because they have other issues going on. Early intervention at a very young age within families is a good thing. Would you recommend that Parliament should put it on a statutory basis?

Enver Solomon: Yes. Munro recommends that there should be a statutory duty of early help placed upon local authorities and agencies to ensure that resources are allocated and early intervention programmes are put in place. We know that the overlap between children on child protection case loads, children on the edge of the child protection system and those in the youth justice system is very great.

Penelope Gibbs: Jeremy mentioned 18-year-olds and people in their early 20s leaving custody. They are completely outside the youth justice system. We are now into the adult system. The kinds of services an 18 or 19-year-old receives on leaving custody are not nearly as good as those for under-18s. Even services for the under-18s need improvement.

Q38 Jeremy Corbyn: What would you like them to receive?

Penelope Gibbs: Young adults should be treated more like the under-18s within the youth justice system because they are not mature and they often have very high educational, welfare and training needs. Quite how that would be achieved I do not know. I want to highlight the fact that, from your 18th birthday, you are shipped into the adult system. At 19 you may be absolutely as vulnerable and immature as a 17-year-old and yet we are talking about what does not work in the youth justice system. It is much better for young people than the adult system.

Q39 Chair: There are a couple more points we need to deal with and one is the current financial climate. Given the pressures on public finance at the moment and the fact that the case load of Youth Offending Teams has significantly reduced, it is hardly surprising that the YOTs should have to cope with some financial stringency, is it?

Penelope Gibbs: What is important is that children who are at risk of offending and reoffending have both their criminal justice and other needs met. I do not like to isolate YOT funding from the funding attached to the child within the system. What is important is that their needs, which may be the driver to offending, are met as well as their offending. I would not like to comment on exactly where YOT funding should be.

Q40 Chair: You mentioned earlier that some agencies might be withdrawing from Youth Offending Teams. This was anecdotal evidence. Is there a real fear that some agencies, in the course of trying to meet the requirement to reduce their so-called back office functions, will end up saying, "We are not seconding anyone to a Youth Offending Team"? Is it sustainable that you could have a Youth Offending Team about which a health department said, "We are not bothering; we do not have anybody spare to send"?

Enver Solomon: It is sustainable in the sense that the YOT would still continue. You just would not have that buy-in or support from health. That is a risk and that is happening in some parts of the country.

Q41 Chair: Is it happening?

Enver Solomon: It is happening in some parts of the country as we speak, yes.

Penelope Gibbs: We understand it is happening. I would ask your next interviewees who are working in YOTs that question again.

Enver Solomon: There was a survey recently done by Children and Young People Now magazine which suggested that there are a number of areas in the country where the functions of YOTs were being merged or integrated with other local authority services. The support from statutory partners is not coming forward in the way that was expected when it was originally conceived under the 1998 legislation.

Q42 Claire Perry: Is there any evidence that that has any impact on outcomes?

Enver Solomon: We do not know yet. It is too early to say. If you talked to a YOT manager, they would certainly say that the multi-agency, multi-disciplinary approach has enabled them to draw on resources, expertise and interventions that have radically made a difference to the children they are working with.

Q43 Claire Perry: I accept that. Let us say we are a YOT, you are the health person and you are not seconded for whatever reason. What is to stop me picking up the phone and saying, "I have individual X who has a drug dependency. Please can we get him into abstinence programme Y"? Why do you need to be on the team to make that happen if we know that the children’s services in Wiltshire local council take this issue incredibly seriously? Why do we have to focus on the inputs and not the outcomes?

Enver Solomon: Because, otherwise, they just join a waiting list along with everyone else.

Q44 Claire Perry: How do you know that? Is there any evidence?

Enver Solomon: Talk to YOT managers about how the system works. My understanding is that that young person will not be prioritised or resources will not be immediately allocated because it will just be another referral along with referrals from everywhere else.

Q45 Claire Perry: Then surely I am failing, as the leader of that YOT, to make sure that that child’s needs are taken care of.

Enver Solomon: No, because the YOT cannot force other agencies to intervene. A YOT cannot force a head teacher to take a child into school once they have come off the YOT case load. A YOT manager cannot force a child and adolescent mental health worker to provide a therapeutic intervention for that child. Unless there is a recognition that they are part of a team that has a common approach to working with that child and it sees it as an integral part of their role, it is not going to happen.

Q46 Chair: We will pursue that with our next group of witnesses as well, as you have suggested. There is just one other point I would like to cover so as to give us time to deal with the other witnesses. Essentially, what has led to the year-on-year fall in the number of young people in custody? What is the key factor?

Penelope Gibbs: I would draw your attention to Rob Allen’s publication Last Resort. There is no one factor; there are many. There is the change in the way police targets were done in terms of offences brought to justice, the successful implementation of an indicator on reduction in first time entrants and the leadership of the Youth Justice Board. The sentencing guidance that came out on over-arching principles of sentencing for youths was very helpful. Rob cites about seven factors. He did this for us in a relatively short time. It is an excellent piece of work. It would be worth somebody somewhere doing a more extensive study of all those factors.

Q47 Chair: What about the practice of writing to chairs of youth court panels and drawing attention to the fact that they have, perhaps, an above average number of youths in custody? I was intrigued that that process had happened and that you had not had any protests from the judiciary that you were interfering with their independence.

Penelope Gibbs: Those data were already published by the previous incarnation of the Sentencing Council. In a sense, they were already doing it. The YJB then went the next step, which was writing a letter and drawing the chairs’ attention to it. It was an incremental process. The YJB did it very cleverly. We did it for local authorities as well, so it is the dual process of doing it with both parts. The YJB basically just said, "Here are the stats. There are differences." They did not say, "We are attributing any blame", or anything like that, but it drew the courts’ attention to it. Maybe they had a conversation with a YOT or brought it up at the court user meeting. In some places it will have worked and in others not, but I think it was important information for them to know, whether they used it or not.

Q48 Chair: Are some youth courts more aware and better informed about the availability and usefulness of alternative disposals than others?

Enver Solomon: They are. It depends on the relationships that exist at the local area level, particularly between the YOT and the local court. Those relationships differ across the country. It depends on key personnel and how they have developed over time, but it is a pivotal relationship. The move by the YJB to draw attention to local areas in the way that you refer to was a contributory factor. It is also important to recognise the overall picture in relation to what has happened to the numbers going into the system. The move to reduce the number of first-time entrants and the decision to focus clearly on that has been a contributory factor. What happens at the front end has a knock-on effect on what happens further down the system. Criminologists recognise that as being a pattern in declines in the use of custody in different jurisdictions and, indeed, in our jurisdiction. That is a critical factor.

The move away from the offences brought to justice target, which was a key driver for the criminal justice system under the previous Administration and with which you will be familiar, has resulted in agencies not picking off what has been termed by Rod Morgan, the previous inspector of probation and the previous chair of the Youth Justice Board, as the low- hanging fruit. Therefore, there has been a move to divert, to reduce the numbers of first-time entrants and that has had an overall, significant impact. One needs to look at the whole picture.

Chair: Mr Solomon and Ms Gibbs, thank you very much. Your evidence has been very helpful to us.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Lorna Hadley, Chair, Association of YOT Managers, Gareth Jones, Head of Service, Halton and Warrington Youth Offending Team and Vice-Chair of the Association of YOT Managers, and Eddie Isles, Chair, YOT Managers, Cymru, gave evidence.

Q49 Chair: Good morning and welcome to you all. Ms Hadley, you are the Chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers.

Lorna Hadley: That is correct, yes.

Q50 Chair: Mr Jones, you are head of service at Halton and Warrington Youth Offending Team.

Gareth Jones: That is correct.

Q51 Chair: Mr Isles, you are Chair of YOT Managers, Cymru, representing 17 of the 18 YOTs in Wales.

Eddie Isles: Indeed.

Chair: We are grateful to you all for coming to give evidence.

Q52 Jeremy Corbyn: Thank you very much for coming. You have heard the evidence we took from the previous witnesses. Seven out of 10 young offenders reoffend within a year of leaving custody and that is a very serious problem. How successful or otherwise do you think YOTs and the Youth Justice Board are?

Eddie Isles: That is a very stark figure for reoffending after custody, but the numbers of young people going into custody have significantly reduced over recent years. Percentages around small numbers are very difficult. That does not excuse the fact that it is very high, but it needs to be seen in the context of the total youth justice system. If we look at the bottom end of the system where young people are coming into first contact with the police and the attention that we have paid in recent times to reducing first-time entrants, we are looking at a reoffending rate of 7% after two years. There is a considerable link between that and the reduction in the overall system.

We have some very disturbed, damaged young people who often bring with them a great deal of baggage. Previous submissions will have presented the fact that many of the young people that we see going into custody have come through the looked-after system of local authorities, with very strong links with substance misuse and significant issues of disengagement from broader universal services. All of that makes them very difficult to work with.

Lorna Hadley: I would echo that viewpoint. The young people who end up in custody are very complex. We are being more successful in diverting young people who do not need to be in the criminal justice system, so there are the added complications.

Q53 Jeremy Corbyn: You are both saying that the percentages are seriously misleading on this. It seems that the rate is not going down very much.

Lorna Hadley: It depends how you are counting the figures and whether you are looking at the frequency and persistency of offending. We have seen a reduction in the persistency of our offending. That was a conversation we were having this morning.

Gareth Jones: We need to be really careful with the reoffending rate as a measure because as soon as a young person reoffends once, they are a reoffender. If their rate and seriousness of offending has reduced, that means there are fewer offences and victims within communities. With some of the young people we are dealing with, with huge issues, you cannot just turn offending off like a tap. It does not work like that. This is one of our major concerns in terms of the payment by results on reoffending. If the measure for reoffending is as straightforward as one strike and you’re out, there will be a perverse disincentive for people like us to remove services from prolific young offenders because we have already lost them because they have committed one offence, whereas, if they have slowed down from committing 10 offences a month to one and it is less serious, we are on the right track. We have not got there yet and there are still issues. We would prefer they did not commit any offences, but we need to be really careful about this very blunt tool.

Q54 Jeremy Corbyn: What do you feel about the effectiveness of the YOT system?

Gareth Jones: You have heard submissions before. You have asked questions such as how come we have fewer young people in custody and fewer first-time entrants. That speaks for itself. You could take a more qualitative view and ask some of the partners, particularly about the relationships between Youth Offending Teams and the police, for instance. One of the ironies now is that some of our young offenders are being caught and convicted, whereas previously they probably would not have been because information would not have been shared the way it is now. We work very closely with our police colleagues in Cheshire on integrated offender management as just one approach. They are also very involved in our intensive supervision and surveillance programmes. If we find out that a young person is up to things, our information goes into police intelligence. They are then targeted, apprehended and convicted. That can look like it is a negative because the reoffending rates go up, but in real terms and in terms of the populations in Cheshire, Halton and Warrington, where I serve, there are fewer offences. Their quality of life has gone up. They do not always feel that. If you ask them the question, "Is there too much youth crime?" they will always say, "Yes", but if someone is asked, "Are you paid enough?", they will always say, "No", no matter how much they are paid. Premiership footballers are a good case of that. The strength of the Youth Offending Teams can be seen in the local partnerships as well as the national results.

Q55 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you feel that we are collecting statistics in the right way or should we use some different indices in measuring all this?

Eddie Isles: That is quite an issue. The Reducing the Burdens agenda is played out here. I certainly read that Youth Offending Teams were the most patrolled area of public service in terms of the information that was returned to the Youth Justice Board on a quarterly level. The difficulty is that, unless that information can be analysed and made good use of, we are simply collecting information for the sake of it. Many of us have come to the point where we interpret the information that we send to the YJB and use it for more local purposes, establishing local key performance indicators within our crime reduction partnerships or, in my case, community safety partnerships in Wales.

If you move to what in Wales has become known as results-based accountability, you become much more focused on outcomes and what it is that we are seeking to achieve. Then you can direct the information that you have gathered to a much more precise level and make better use of it.

Q56 Claire Perry: This follows on quite nicely from results-based outcomes and funding, because, clearly, a little like Citizens Advice, there is a variety of funding reductions coming to the YOTs from all the various agencies from whom they receive funding. It has been said that this is only reasonable, given the average decline in case load that the YOTs are dealing with. What is your response to that?

Eddie Isles: The funding uncertainties that we are facing are very complex. It is not just an issue of the central grants from Government. It is an issue of how our local partners are able to maintain the funding levels coming through to Youth Offending Teams and services as well. The police, probation services and local authorities have all taken budget cuts and are looking at more next year. Then things are passed through to us and the magnification of loss becomes quite an issue.

In Wales, we have looked at the proposals for the new funding arrangements that have been made by the Youth Justice Board and the different options. We are looking at three of the existing 18 YOTs being pushed to the point where they will not be viable in terms of income levels. There does have to be some measure. I fully accept that we are taking a share of cuts and, with the effectiveness of the interventions, we have managed to reduce the number of young people and the level of crime. In my own area, youth crime has dropped by 75% since 2001. The number of young people coming through the system is down by a third. I have lost posts and I fully expect that that will continue. We do need a basic level of resourcing to maintain these services, otherwise, the success that we have had in reducing and containing lower levels of youth crime will be reversed and it will go back to where it was before.

Lorna Hadley: When we initially had the grant funding when YOTs first came into being, there was an expectation that it would be match funded by all the partners together. The partners have found it harder and harder, particularly with the recent cuts, to match fund any grant funding that we get from the Youth Justice Board. Some authorities have this mismatch with the match funding that they get from the Youth Justice Board. There is a loss of posts and it has been greater in some areas than others, particularly in some of the London authorities I can quote, being a London YOT manager. We have struggled. We have seen greater losses and losses in terms of income from partners which would have contributed to the overall YOT-the building and the running of it. That has made an impact.

Gareth Jones: I am from a YOT that has been traditionally very poorly funded because of decisions that were made 12 years ago when the partnerships were first set up. Year on year we have had very little, but we have produced some extremely good outcomes. This is one of the issues about cuts in any funding. You do not salami slice. If it is 25%, you do not take 25% from everybody. If you are funding something at a reasonably good rate and getting very good outcomes, why take the funding away when your outcomes may well not be so good?

We all know how expensive it is to put things right rather than keep going things that are working. That does not mean to say that YOTs should be immune from the pain of the economic situation. We are certainly not, but we need to be very careful about removing money at a stroke. That has been happening with partner agencies. If it is 20% from the local authority, it is 20% to the YOT or even more. If it is 20% from the police or 10%, it is 10%. You do not activate a household budget like that because you always make sure that certain things have a priority: i.e. your mortgage, etc.

Q57 Claire Perry: We heard from a previous witness that the idea of pushing this accountability down to the local authority was a good thing because clearly there was more ownership of the budget. Given that there are different priorities for different local authorities, presumably it is reasonable to expect different levels of funding for different YOTs across the country. The more accountable you can make local politicians for this funding and the more transparent it can be, presumably the better, because you want to know what your local organisations are spending on this and what the results are.

Gareth Jones: There is a danger there, and we have seen it across the country with certain colleagues, where the youth justice grant is seen as children’s services or local authority money, not the partnership or the criminal justice side. They think this money can prop up cuts in the youth service or elsewhere. It is not being seen in that whole that you have described. I would agree with that. If the funding does not come with some very specific requirements, there is a danger that it gets assimilated into the bigger pot and then locally who has the power gets the money. That is not necessarily a youth offending service or a youth justice partnership.

Q58 Claire Perry: You spoke about your funding level, Mr Jones, and your results. We heard from the previous witnesses that it was difficult to find the data. Is there something somewhere that says, for every pound your YOTs spend, they deter this many custodial sentences or whatever the metric is? Where is that data? That helps local people to hold their local authorities to account if the money is being diverted away from youth offending.

Eddie Isles: We have done some work on this in Wales. It is what we term "smart accountancy". It does produce some very interesting responses when we take it to management boards. The major savings made from reducing youth crime are in the amount of police time spent with young people. In other words, police officers are out on the street for longer than if they were booking people in the police station. The costs to the court system are significantly reduced, so there is a clear saving for the Crown Prosecution Service, in defence costs and court time. These do not necessarily show through into immediately observable savings for social services, education or health. In fact those services may be picking up increased costs. The more we do in early identification of associated problems such as non-school attendance or mental health, the more likely they are to incur increased costs rather than to make savings because these are often youngsters that they would not otherwise see. Frequently we find that EWOs-education welfare officers-working within Youth Offending Teams pick up indicators of exclusion which have not been reported to the mainstream service. They work with parents to ensure proper attendance by young people to get them back into school, thereby saving later exclusions.

There is a saving to be made there. There is a benefit from making sure these young people are retained within the universal service, but it is very difficult to track it down and put a pound sign on it.

Q59 Claire Perry: The YOTs seem to be going down the food chain in terms of earlier and earlier interventions, which we would all accept is sensible. I am interested because that was not the original mandate, which was to reduce offending and engage with people once they came into the criminal justice system. It is quite difficult from a funding point of view, is it not, to capture that intervention funding?

Eddie Isles: The mandate was to prevent offending by children and young people. In following down the food chain, as you put it, that is what we have done. I have been working in the youth justice field since the mid-1980s. The difference that came in 2000 with the establishment of the YJB and Youth Offending Teams was the multi-agency approach. Having everybody under one roof meant that we could do things that we had not been able to do before. Inextricably, that took us down the line of early intervention and prevention. I draw a distinction between those.

Where we are looking at prevention, as Penelope said earlier, we know that the same risk factors apply to substance misuse and non-school attendance as apply to offending behaviour. If we can stop some of these things early, it is a much better way of dealing with matters.

Q60 Claire Perry: That might be showing up in the diversion numbers, but would there be an argument that that is all very well but what we should be doing is focusing on driving down reoffending rates, which remain unacceptably high?

Lorna Hadley: A lot of YOTs would say we have lost prevention services within the cuts. Eddie is right. We were seen as a multi-agency service that could get partners round the table so we were leading in some areas in the prevention work. Certain authorities have completely lost all their prevention work and a gap is beginning to show because the local authority cannot pick it up through their youth service or through other safeguarding agencies. Across London, there is a gap in prevention services which causes us concern. We are back to the fact that this is the financial window that we have. What must we do? We have statutory obligations. We are trying to refocus our resources, but our concern is that, if we do not fill that gap, we are going to get more children coming through, which would again put pressure on the services we have.

Q61 Chair: What is slightly worrying about this is that there is money that is no longer being spent on youth custody. An entire youth custody institution in my constituency has closed down and been handed over to the adult estate. The ideal would have been the transfer of that money into further preventative services, further reducing the need both for youth custody and for other forms of expensive intervention with young people.

Lorna Hadley: Yes. It is a concern. We have been in consultation with the Youth Justice Board about the delegated budgets. One of the concerns we have raised is that, if it is not ring fenced, if it does not have a label on it, we could lose it. If it goes down to the local authority, they could pass the money on elsewhere.

Q62 Chair: Don’t you have to face the fact-certainly it is the current philosophy and the Government’s philosophy, but it is not unique to the Government-that local authorities are democratically responsible bodies accountable to the public who should be allowed to decide what the priorities in their area are and not receive their income in the form of sealed envelopes which can only be used in particular ways?

Eddie Isles: From a Welsh perspective, criminal justice remains a non-devolved matter, whereas most of the other aspects of government that affect young people-education, social services, health-are devolved. In Wales, it is very difficult sometimes trying to get the local authority and those partners to keep an eye on criminal justice matters which they do not see as anything much to do with them. There are some tensions that are being played out at local level, to which devolution has added.

Q63 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I explore with all of you the Government’s intention to abolish the Youth Justice Board? The idea is to replace it with a body within the Ministry of Justice. A number of people say that it is wrong, in that there should be an independent body looking at youth offending. What do you think the impact will be on the work of Youth Offending Teams if the Youth Justice Board is abolished?

Lorna Hadley: We have seen an impact since the Government announced the abolition of the Youth Justice Board. Our concern is that we will lose the discrete service for children. Children are very different from adults. It is a different context and we would not want to get lost in the bigger world of NOMS. Our concern is that local authorities will begin to marginalise the youth justice agenda because it will get taken over with other priorities. We have seen some of that already, with local authorities thinking that the Youth Justice Board has already gone. We are saying, "No, it has not", and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which brought in YOTs has not been abolished either. The Youth Justice Board has had some successes. The regional relationship has been very beneficial to Youth Offending Teams. I know Gareth wanted to quote a particular area.

Gareth Jones: I am from the north-west and colleagues in Greater Manchester have already mentioned the value of the regional Youth Justice Board. I am part of the Merseyside YOT Managers’ Collective, which has another seven managers who would also endorse that. It is one of the things we need to be really careful with. I am saying this every time, but we could throw the baby out with the bathwater. The regional service from the Youth Justice Board has been extremely helpful, particularly where some YOTs and the partnerships behind them have not been serving the needs of the localities. Having some of the improvement plans and the clout and respect of local partners has been extremely helpful. That is not to say that that cannot be provided by another body, but it almost begs the question: why reinvent something if it is working well?

I am not a complete apologist for the Youth Justice Board. It has done many things that I am not too keen on. An awful lot of money over the years could have been spent better, maybe out in the regions with people like ourselves who deliver the service rather than in headquarters in London. Again, that may be a rather regional viewpoint.

Eddie Isles: The Youth Justice Board in its current incarnation has learned from some of those mistakes that Gareth is raising. Within Wales, the Youth Justice Board has been working very closely with, first, the Welsh Assembly Government and, now, the Welsh Government. Tying up those agendas so that we see the two Governments working together has been no mean feat. I respect the work that they have done there. The current arrangements we have through the Advisory Panel for Youth Justice in Wales are a very good model for how we have government working together with Youth Offending Teams and services and with academic institutions in the voluntary sector. If we are looking at a replacement for the YJB, it may be that we need to think about who would be the members of that body. We have not seen much detail. On balance, we believe that YJB has fulfilled a significant function in terms of bringing forward the agenda around youth crime. It has been able to keep the profile of the issues high and it has often dealt with some very difficult issues very well.

Lorna Hadley: It has given a presence to youth justice on many agendas, particularly the Sustaining the Success report. That has helped us as YOT managers in terms of our presence on certain important boards like the Crime and Disorder Partnership, the local safeguarding boards and how we balance the two. That was a really significant report. It is unfortunate that it has not been reviewed.

Eddie Isles: We are talking from the perspective of Youth Offending Teams and services, but the YJB has had significant responsibilities for the secure estate, and we have seen some very significant improvements in the secure estate regime as a result of their handling of those contracts.

Q64 Yasmin Qureshi: Do the Youth Offending Teams have enough knowledge about the effectiveness of their interventions? How do you assess what has or has not worked with a particular individual?

Eddie Isles: At local level, the way I have tried to do this is by going into partnership with the university in Swansea and Cardiff. We have a significant amount of research evaluation to try to get down to the level of what works. There is a simple answer. It is such a broad spectrum from early intervention to custody that there is not a single thing you can say, other than that the quality of the relationships between the workers, the young people and the parents seems to be a very significant factor.

One thing that is showing through very clearly is that we seem to have made some mistakes at national level over a number of years. While we have talked about parental responsibility, the intervention of the state has marginalised parents in a way and has made it more difficult for them to exercise their responsibilities. Some of the work we are doing at the moment is much more geared towards engaging parents in taking responsibility and in responsible actions. Confronting young people with the consequences of their actions through restorative justice interventions has been shown to have a very clear educative effect.

We have to think what sort of system we want. Do we want one based on punishing young people or on effectiveness and the reduction of rates of reoffending? If we want the latter, we have to do something very different from punishment.

Lorna Hadley: Nationally, possibly more could have been done in terms of what works. Locally, we are all very different. Gareth might use something in his area that I might not use in mine because of different profiles of the borough. In terms of sharing good practice we have done that across YOTs, but more could be done in that respect.

The other problem I would highlight is that the short-term funding of short-term projects has not given us the opportunity to evaluate fully whether something has worked because a year later the money has gone so we are not continuing with projects. That has been a bit of a hindrance to us over time.

Gareth Jones: There is also a slight difficulty in that we know what works. The way that sometimes this is requested of us is: "Does that particular programme, which usually has a copyright on it and a financial implication and incentive for somebody, work or not?" Sometimes it does. What we know works is if the young person takes responsibility for their actions. If they can make a human contact with their victim, if the people working with them demand to be respected and are respected, all those things work. We know instantly whether we are going to have problems with a young person from the attitude of the parents, for instance. If they do not give a damn, we know we have difficulty. Even where parents do give a damn, you still may have difficulties but at least you have one eye. We know there are all sorts of things that work. The question that has been asked of us is, "Does X work?", and you cannot isolate it in that way. I can understand why some people would like us to.

Q65 Yasmin Qureshi: Everyone has talked about restorative justice and Ms Gibbs mentioned earlier that restorative justice seemed to have worked very well in Northern Ireland. Do you think we should make greater use of restorative justice? If so, how can that best be achieved?

Gareth Jones: In a word, yes, but-and this is a big "but"-a lot of people are keen on restorative justice as a way of reducing offending and reoffending. That is a very difficult zone to go into. If we do it the other way round and say, "What is best for the victim? What is the better outcome for victims?", restorative justice when it is done properly-that is the other caveat-needs to be victim-centred and intensive. If you have suffered an offence, you may not be ready for restorative justice at the point when you are first asked. It might take 10 or 20 times, but we have to keep offering it. That takes time. It is also no mean skill to persuade someone who does not think this is going to be a good outcome for them that it may be.

The research has suggested that, where people have gone into those processes, victim satisfaction levels are phenomenally improved compared to court-based outcomes. I am a member of the Cheshire Criminal Justice Board. Several years ago we decided collectively not to worry about the targets. We are going to concentrate on what was the right thing to do. Cheshire Constabulary has invested a lot in restorative justice training for their staff. One of the things that has changed is the way police officers view young people. Rather than saying, "Is my offence brought to justice?", which was mentioned before, ticking the box, or picking the low hanging fruit, they think, "What is the best outcome for the victim and the young person?" You should take that as the basic tenet, but it is not cheap and it is not a panacea.

There is a danger that, if we encourage it too much, people will be investing in the process rather than considering what the outcome should be. The outcome must always be positive for the victim, otherwise you should not do it.

Q66 Jeremy Corbyn: You heard from our previous discussion that I and others have concerns about young offenders coming out of custody, particularly where there is not any clear family relationship and they were previously in care. They are young adults and therefore not within the youth justice ambit. Do you have any worries about what happens to them and the danger of them falling into a cycle of more serious crime?

Gareth Jones: Absolutely. The evidence is very clear on that. There are different approaches. I will speak about where I am from. Locally, through the integrated offender management process with the police and probation services and other local providers, we have not made a distinction between the youth and the adult side of this. We had one young man who had lots of difficulties who would fit into that category. The probation officer in the youth offending service was supervising his order, even though the young man was 19, precisely for the reasons to which you have referred. When he did inevitably appear in court, the police officers who arrested him knew what the difficulties were, so there was a different approach. The Crown Prosecution Service knew. There were discussions in the court. If there can be such a thing as a vulnerable offender in the same way that there can be vulnerable witnesses, he was one of them.

The way that was managed was a lot less brutal than it would have been. There will be a pay-off from that in terms of reduced costs further down the line. We see young people who have a lot of support when they are 16 or 17. When they are 18 or 19 that disappears and this is one of our major concerns about the removal of the focus on young people. History tells us that when young people are in a more adult-based system they get lost. I was a probation officer from 1990 and one of the reasons I moved into YOTs was that I could see that intervention should be in people’s lives not when they are 45 and 50 but when they are 14, 15 and 16.

Q67 Jeremy Corbyn: Would it be practical to have some kind of taper for support? Eighteen is just a cut-off. It is totally arbitrary. It could be 17 and a half; it could be 19 and a half; it could be anything.

Eddie Isles: This issue of transition into adult services is a very significant one for us. We have variable age ranges at which young people move between services. In Wales, for instance, in mental health you become an adult at 16, which is inappropriate. Youngsters are suddenly expected to be in adult provision. There is a sense in which, if we do our job properly and reduce the custody population, we are going to see custody much more dealing with young people who carry a whole range of different, very complex, long-term problems. That is what we are seeing now. The transition from looked-after status to custody status is very well documented.

Many of these young people may be chronologically 18 or 19 but, emotionally and in terms of their functional abilities, they could be 14, 15 or 16. Some transition arrangement needs to be there which takes account of the ability of the young person to manage the services they find themselves in. At some point we have to transit across to adult provision, but purely arbitrarily, on an 18th birthday, does not seem to make any sense. We have clear evidence of young people who are reasonably co-operative with us, but who persist in going into custody, who suddenly turn 18 and are pleading to come back to work with us because they cannot cope with the reduced frequency of contact and the restrictions which are placed on probation these days in terms of what they can and cannot do by virtue of case load.

Q68 Chair: I referred in the earlier session to money saved as result of the decline in the numbers in custody being transferred into other services which will either deal with offenders or prevent them from getting into the system in the first place. There is supposed to be a Pathfinder scheme, is there not, in which exactly that happens?

Lorna Hadley: Yes.

Q69 Chair: Has that had any impact yet?

Lorna Hadley: The Pathfinders have just started. They have only just been launched, officially from 1 October. It is a two-year pilot. I hope we start seeing results after the first year. My authority is one of the Pathfinder pilots. We are part of the East London group of seven boroughs that have entered into Pathfinder.

Q70 Chair: Are you getting a sum of money which was previously in the custody budget?

Lorna Hadley: We are getting front-loaded grant funding, yes, for the multi-systemic therapy approach that we are going to take. That is what we are using as an alternative to remands and custodial sentences.

Q71 Claire Perry: It is fascinating listening to you. The notion of families has been mentioned, and the fact that it is difficult to get the parents engaged. Do you get multiple youth offending in the same family? I am thinking about the Government’s focus on the most troubled families, from whom I imagine your clients are often drawn, and whether that would be of any help. This may be too broad a question to ask here, but do you get multiple children from the same troubled families or is it more the "one bad apple" syndrome?

Eddie Isles: It is a combination of both. We should look at the inevitability of adolescence being a very troubled time. Young people will commit crime and they will do things that they do not realise are criminal, but they are then arrested and dealt with. We deal with young people whose parents are often not disengaged but very significantly engaged, from all walks of life. I have had the children of directors of services, a judge’s son and various others, as well as young people who come from generationally engaged families. I have been in the business long enough to see some of the children of youngsters I worked with when I was a fresh youth justice worker back in the 1980s.

The surprising thing to me is how few of them we see and how well they engage with us. Even where they have had criminal backgrounds, they do not want the same thing to happen with their children. Engagement with parents is not necessarily difficult. They tend to view youth offending services as very distinct from social services and child and family departments. We seem to get better levels of co-operation from parents.

So the answer is, yes, there are inter-generational problem families. They often crop up first when we are looking at anti-social behaviour. This is an area where we have developed early intervention strategies to deal with the behaviour before it finds its way into the criminal justice system, and with some degree of effectiveness.

Chair: Mr Isles, Mr Hadley and Mr Jones, thank you very much indeed.


[1] Note by witness: T he local reoffending data has in fact not been available previously though point about information being difficult to find stands.

[2] Note by witness : In fact the reoffending rates are not available.

Prepared 22nd November 2011