Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 339 -i ii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
TUESday 16 OCTOBER 2012
DEBBIE PIPPARD, SUE BERELOWITZ and PROFESSOR KAREN BRYAN
hugh thornbery, ian langley, clare hobbs and dr becky morland
Evidence heard in Public Questions 182 - 241
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Justice Committee
on Tuesday 16 October 2012
Sir Alan Beith (in the Chair)
Mr Robert Buckland
Nick de Bois
Mr Elfyn Llwyd
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Debbie Pippard, Vice-Chair, Transition to Adulthood Alliance, Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner, and Professor Karen Bryan, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, gave evidence.
Chair: Good morning and welcome. We know that Ms Berelowitz is delayed but coming, so we are going to reorder slightly the questions we intended to ask. We will put the questions we intended to ask her slightly further down the order of things. We are very glad to have with us Professor Karen Bryan from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and Debbie Pippard from the Transition to Adulthood Alliance. Indeed, I see that Ms Berelowitz is here now, but we will give you a moment to get your breath back and go first to a question from Mr Buckland.
Q182Mr Buckland: I should declare that I am a vice-chair of the AllParty Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties. I want to ask some questions of Professor Karen Bryan. We know that, whereas only 10% of children and young people in the general population have speech, language and communication needs, when it comes to the criminal justice system, over 65% of young offenders have those needs. Why do you think there is such a marked over-representation of young people with SLCN in the criminal justice system?
Professor Bryan: The best way to explain it is to think of a compounding risk model. If a young child has speech and language difficulties and those are not resolved through intervention, that child starts school with a disadvantage. There is very strong research evidence for that. Then difficulty at school puts the child at risk of developing behavioural problems. Again, a very strong link is established between the development of behavioural problems and having difficulty with communication at school, particularly for children who have difficulty with comprehension. It is much more difficult for non-specialists to recognise comprehension difficulties than expressive difficulties, which are much more obvious. The child will possibly be developing behavioural problems, struggling and not making progress at school. They are then hugely at risk in the transition to secondary school, which we know is stressful even for children who are doing well. There are far fewer support services at that stage. Once children are failing and dropping out-and perhaps not always at school-they become at risk of involvement in activities they should not be involved in. If you look at children not making the transition to secondary school, many more of those have communication difficulties; if you look at children who are not in education, training or work, about 50% have communication difficulties; and, if you look in the criminal justice system, it is 60% to 65%. It is a compounding risk model.
Q183Mr Buckland: So the answer to the compounding risk problem is the well-worn phrase "early intervention on a health basis".
Professor Bryan: Yes.
Q184Mr Buckland: At a very early stage in the child’s life.
Professor Bryan: Absolutely. That is clearly the best stage, because you prevent those risks from compounding. There is probably another opportunity around age nine when children are preparing for transition to secondary school. Teachers will often say in retrospect that they could identify the children who would find that transition hard, but somehow we do not seem to offer intervention at that stage.
Q185Mr Buckland: Dealing with the criminal justice system and the way in which young offenders are assessed at the moment, the ASSET tool, to use the acronym, is currently being reviewed by the Youth Justice Board. Looking at that briefly, do you think it is working as an effective way of identifying speech, communication and language needs?
Professor Bryan: No, it is not, and the Youth Justice Board have acknowledged that. Essentially, it does not explore whether the young person has a communication difficulty. In addition, the ASSET is very long and detailed and requires the young person to answer a lot of quite complex questions. If they have even a mild communication difficulty, possibly they are not understanding questions, or they are not able to give the information they need to give. Therefore, it is not a very effective tool on both counts.
Q186Mr Buckland: Is the Royal College being consulted by the YJB as part of their revision and consultation on ASSET?
Professor Bryan: There is a very extensive piece of work to develop a new tool, which has been called the CHAT. The Royal College and myself are involved. As ever with these things, our advice is not always taken, but there is a balance. What concerns me most about the new tool is that it is still verbally mediated, meaning that primarily a lot of questions are asked of the young person, and there is no pre-screen to identify children with communication difficulty. My argument is that for some of them, if you sorted that out first, slowing down and making the questions simpler, you probably could facilitate, and maybe for some it is not realistic for a youth justice worker to carry out that assessment.
Q187Mr Buckland: You are telling us, are you not, that it is as fundamental as a young person not understanding what "guilty" means, for example?
Professor Bryan: Absolutely, yes. People either do not give information about their difficulties and problems or just agree that everything is fine, to get through a process that they do not really understand. It will then be much later in the sentence when their problems become more evident, for example when they are failing in an intervention, which is very negative for them but also a waste of resources.
Q188Mr Buckland: Dealing generally with youth offending teams and the secure network-young offenders institutions-can you tell us what proportion of those organisations employ or have access to speech and language therapists?
Professor Bryan: There are 157 youth offending community services in England and Wales, of which 15 have access to speech and language therapy. There are 11 young offenders institutions, of which three have access to a service. In addition, it is important to register that many of those services are short-term projects, so they are not formally part of the staffing of the establishment.
Q189Mr Buckland: In an ideal world we would have SLTs everywhere, but we do not live in an ideal world. How do you see the role of SLTs in spreading that awareness and understanding among other members of staff-for example in a YOT? Do you think that is an important aspect of the work?
Professor Bryan: I think it is. You can almost look at a three-tier model. For children with milder difficulties, it is possible to train up the staff who are called to that service, work in it and can adjust their interaction, and probably those young people can manage. There is a middle tier where staff will need more training. You may be looking at training up some of the core staff. Perhaps people involved in special education would be a good example. There are some very positive projects around that. Those people would have more knowledge, would know when to call in the speech and language therapist and would be able to support their colleagues. If you like, the top third of the triangle would be children perhaps with very complex problems and underlying neurological conditions-Asperger’s syndrome, autistic spectrum and so on-where much more specialist input would be needed, ending up, hopefully, with a programme that the middle tier of staff could continue with and a speech and language therapist could monitor. Essentially, it is a consultancy model.
What the research has shown is that the consultancy model’s training and support work very well, but they are not acceptable to the staff in young offender institutions or youth offending services unless there is some back-up for them. If you make them aware of the problems and how to deal with them and work with the speech and language therapists, and then withdraw it, you undermine the efforts of those staff to manage these young people.
Q190Steve Brine: I am advised to say that I am married to a member of the Royal College. You say in your evidence that up to 55% of children in deprived areas experience difficulties at age five. You said earlier that that is where it starts and it compounds from there. In Parliament Mr Buckland and I have entertained Gareth Gates, who has given us some very powerful evidence about his stammer and how that affected him from very early on. I want to take you way back before the criminal justice system to age five, and even before. Can you give us more solid examples as to what are the exact communication difficulties that start to go wrong? What are the most common traits that you start to see, and why is it that the most deprived areas send children to primary school with those problems?
Professor Bryan: If you look at the research on the very early stages of speech development, a child in a middle-class home, for want of a better expression, will hear 2,000 words a day. A child in a home where there is not so much happening and people do not talk, argue, discuss and negotiate will hear far less vocabulary. Any child that is not having a rich childhood experience is at risk. It is perfectly possible that a child in a home where there is a lot going on with a lot of resources, such as books and the right type of toys, could still develop a language delay. That affects approximately 10% of all children, but it rises to 50% to 55% in more deprived areas.
Access to intervention may be more difficult for families who do not have resources-taking a child to clinic, accessing nursery provision and that sort of thing-so the hard-to-reach families will be more at risk.
Q191Steve Brine: But they have access to Sure Start, or they certainly did in recent years.
Professor Bryan: They should do, yes.
Q192Steve Brine: What can we do about access to rich language at the early stage of development?
Professor Bryan: For example, I am currently researching an evaluation of a baby talk scheme in Portsmouth where speech and language therapists are very active in identifying families who could be at risk, making one-to-one visits, discussing with those parents how to support their children and ensuring that all of the suggestions are very low cost. Families can register for book schemes with the local library, making sure that they are not giving people advice that requires extra resources.
Another thing to remember about small children with speech and language difficulty is that they do not have one problem. Some of them will have a delay, which a good nursery and some speech and language therapy intervention could remediate. Some will have a more complex delay. We talk about their phonology, which is the learning of the sound structure being deviant, so it is not just delayed; something is going wrong. Then there are children with conditions loosely called specific language impairment. The child has an underlying neurological problem that causes great difficulty processing language. Those are the children in particular who have problems with understanding. There could be children with hearing loss which will affect the development of language, and also specific conditions: autistic spectrum, learning difficulties and so on.
Chair: I am afraid we need to move on; otherwise, we will not cover the other topics.
Professor Bryan: It is a very complex picture at that stage.
Q193Mr Llwyd: May I move to child defendants in court? In the case of SC v. UK in 2005 the European Court of Human Rights held that an 11-year-old was unable to participate in his own trial in the Crown court because, perhaps obviously, a child of that age would generally have impairments in adjudicative competence-in other words, the ability to help in his own defence and also to comprehend legal terms. What are the implications of that case for the way children and young people are tried in court? How do you think the courts have responded to that judgment?
Sue Berelowitz: I would just like to add that that child also had learning difficulties, so that compounded things. That is linked very much to what Professor Bryan has just been saying, in a sense, in terms of children’s competency and capacity. The issue there was whether that child had the capacity to participate in that trial. As for the implications, clearly special measures are available: the use of intermediaries and so on.
I was at a conference about children and the law on Saturday at which very senior judges, including a High Court judge, said that being able to take off your wig was simply not enough in making a court understandable and available to the child. I do not think we have gone far enough on that in terms of both child witnesses and child defendants, so there is quite a lot more to be done. What we would like to see is greater use of other types of disposals, because clearly this child is not on his own. For him it was compounded by his learning difficulties, but there are very serious questions to be asked as to whether any child of that age could fully comprehend what is going on in a court. It is not just what happens in the court arena; it is everything that happens from the point of arrest-interrogation, for example, and being held on remand-as well as having the capacity to instruct solicitors. Intermediaries simply translate the language, in a sense; it is not really their task to help the child understand the process of what is going on. If the child has learning difficulties, they may not even understand what the intermediary is saying to them, and the intermediary may not be interpreting correctly for the child, so there are lots of complex issues around this.
We would like better use of restorative justice, and potentially specialist tribunals being available for very young children-and for older children who lack capacity, because this is not just about age but about capacity-and more use of community alternatives, so that a more welfare-based approach is taken. It goes back to the question asked about the assessment of children. The ASSET was referred to. We need to have a much better system of determining whether children who are alleged to have committed crimes really understand the process they are entering into, and all the consequences. It is not simply about whether a child understands the difference between right and wrong. In my experience, very little children-even two-year-olds-understand it is wrong to hit another child, but do they understand the consequences, both of what they have done and of what might arise from that?
In relation to SC, one of the most poignant aspects was that at the end of the trial he expected to go home to his foster parents. He simply did not understand that the consequence would be that he would be in custody. Consequences are important all the way down the line in terms of children’s understanding. They are really not fit to plead if they do not understand that the consequence of pleading guilty is loss of liberty.
Q194Mr Llwyd: Of course, if an adult is not fit to plead there is a court procedure which is followed very strictly.
Sue Berelowitz: Yes.
Q195Mr Llwyd: Can I press you on the intermediary aspect? You said you had been to a conference. My understanding is that the procedure is very much ad hoc, because section 104 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which would have introduced the routine use of intermediaries in this sort of scenario, has yet to be implemented.
Sue Berelowitz: My understanding is that it has been implemented. I apologise if I am wrong about that. I am not speaking as a lawyer.
Professor Bryan: I do have some involvement with the intermediary scheme.
Sue Berelowitz: It is mainly speech and language therapists who occupy that role.
Professor Bryan: Registered intermediaries are available to witnesses and victims. Children under 17 and those with a whole range of difficulties would qualify, but the use of intermediaries is not routine. You have to make a case to the court that the judge has to accept. Currently, across England and Wales there are only about 120 cases a month that involve a registered intermediary. Registered intermediaries are not available to defendants. That has been agreed in law, but the law has not been implemented. There is some work going on around that now.
Q196Mr Llwyd: That is the provision I refer to.
Professor Bryan: It is not implemented.
Sue Berelowitz: I understand there is an open question as to whether a child could itself instruct an intermediary.
Professor Bryan: No.
Sue Berelowitz: My question was then going to be whether a child could get legal aid for that, but Professor Bryan says no.
Professor Bryan: It has to be agreed with the court, and the judge in particular has to agree. There have been a small number of cases where, although the police have seen the need for an intermediary, the judge has not allowed an intermediary to take part.
Q197Mr Llwyd: I suppose what I am saying is that it is high time that section was brought into force.
Professor Bryan: Yes.
Sue Berelowitz: But I would reinforce that intermediaries only enhance fairness to a certain extent, because the child may not understand. Clearly, speech and language therapists are in a very good position to do this, but the issue is: does the child really understand what the intermediary is saying? Is the child fit to plead and instruct lawyers? My understanding is that it is not the intermediary’s responsibility to assist the child with instructing the lawyers. We still have serious issues around fairness.
Q198Mr Llwyd: Presumably, if the intermediaries are registered, they will be experienced in doing that work and, hopefully, will be able at least to assist a child to understand as far as possible what is going on.
Sue Berelowitz: As far as possible.
Professor Bryan: Yes, and in some cases the intermediary should be involved at the stage where evidence is being gathered, so some intermediaries will be confirming that the child does not have capacity or the necessary language skills, even with the support of an intermediary, to manage a court process.
Q199Mr Llwyd: This is a question for you, Professor, but others may join in if they wish. How are children with speech and language needs currently supported in court? Where would you like to see improvements made?
Professor Bryan: Their support is ad hoc. They may be supported with an advocate around the process generally. If there has been agreement to use a registered intermediary, their ability to give evidence, understand questions and relay information may be supported by an intermediary, but there are only about 120 cases a month and not all of them will reach court. They are being used for only a very small minority of children with the most obvious problems; they are not being used in the way originally envisaged.
Sue Berelowitz: We are publishing a report this Friday on levels of neuro-disability among children in the criminal justice system. In terms of additional needs, other than speech and language difficulties-though of course there may be co-morbidity-we are talking about 23% to 32% of all children in custody having learning difficulties, as opposed to 2.4% in the general population. In terms of specific reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, it is 43% to 57% as opposed to 10% in the general population. I could go on to foetal alcohol syndrome and so on. We are talking about children many of whom have speech and language difficulties compounded by other very significant neuro-developmental difficulties. Growing up in dysfunctional households means that is further compounded. There are children with poor boundaries, and so on.
Chair: We look forward to seeing that report.
Q200Nick de Bois: Moving on to our response to youth offending, I have a question to you, Ms Berelowitz. Some commentators appear to argue for the raising of the age of criminal responsibility. Equally, it is fair to suggest that age may be less important than the overall approach to young offenders. My question is: is the overall approach to young offenders really the crucial factor in your opinion?
Sue Berelowitz: The short answer to that is yes. Of course, we can all discuss the issue of raising the age of criminal responsibility. There are very clear standards set out by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child where they expect it to be at least 12, but the really critical issue is capacity and competence. It is not just about age: older children-14, 15 and 16-year-olds-lack capacity as well. We would very much like to see the whole system reformed to take account of capacity, because that is a critical issue.
Q201Nick de Bois: If the alternative is a more welfare-based approach, is there any threat to due process for the defendant-for the child?
Sue Berelowitz: I do not think so. We are certainly in favour of children being helped to face up to the consequences of what they have done and to take responsibility for that. Whatever the method for dealing with children who commit sometimes very grave crimes, it is important that they are helped to do that and that, in terms of society, there is something that brings home to them-I cannot think of a better word than "punishment" at the moment-the gravity of what they have done, but how they are dealt with at the moment raises very serious questions about fairness in terms of the judicial process.
Q202Chair: Perhaps I may explain where we come from on that point. We were recently in Denmark and Norway. There are many impressive features of their welfare-based systems, but one thing that struck us quite forcibly was the problem of a child or young person who says, "I didn’t do it. These people keep telling me that I did this, and I did not do it." The welfare-based system says, "Never mind that; you need this, or you need that." That seemed to us to be a challenge.
Sue Berelowitz: That is very interesting. I visit children’s prisons on a very regular basis and speak to a lot of children in prison of all kinds of ages. A child may think that they have not done it-and of course, there may not have been a fair trial. If we can leave that aside, and hope-
Q203Chair: I do not think you can leave that aside entirely.
Sue Berelowitz: Yes, but by and large, as we have heard already and as I see every time I go to a prison, all those children have lived very difficult and troubled lives, so most of them need a great deal of help. It is a huge tragedy that sometimes they have to enter some of our prisons, where they get that. I was talking to a boy the other day who had had a very good experience in his STC, including now finally getting engaged in education, getting GCSEs and so on. I said to him, "If you had had this before, would you have ended up here?" He said, "No, I don’t think I would." There are children who sometimes need high levels of containment in order to deal with the terrible things that have happened to them in their early childhood. Unless you have that containment, they will not be in a position to use the therapy that is on offer. Most of our children’s prisons do not offer therapy but you can get that in a secure children’s home. It is a difficult area. If a child is saying that they have not done something, they may still need to have that level of containment, but I think we should be taking a much more welfare-based approach. I have never met a child in prison who has not had multiple bereavements and extremely traumatic early childhood experiences, not always very well dealt with. One boy I met recently was telling me how many foster placements he had been in. He stopped counting at 25. He smiled at me ruefully and said, "I’ll stop there." If we deal with these children better in the community, we will be in a better position in terms of them not necessarily committing offences in the first place.
Q204Nick de Bois: To go off at a slight tangent, if we effectively have what you have described as a very disturbed child, how can we rely on the quite daunting process of, for example, restorative justice, or call-ins where people are confronted with the victim? How can we be comfortable that that message is going to get through as well?
Sue Berelowitz: It is not right for every child, and it is certainly not necessarily right at the beginning. A lot of work has to happen both for the victim and the offender before restorative justice can be put in place. If you just put the two parties together without that happening, that would be a recipe for potential disaster for both sides. Restorative justice needs to be part of the menu. When it is the right thing to do, people need to assess at what point it is right to do that, and both parties need to be certain that they are prepared and able to engage in the process. Then we come back to the issue of speech and language, understanding, cognitive capacity and so on. It is not right for every child, but it is part of the armoury.
Q205Nick de Bois: I know that some countries-for example, New Zealand, I think-put a lot of emphasis on it. I would be concerned if it became a de facto default position, and you have articulated those points.
Professor Bryan: There is some research in Australia that children with speech and language difficulties find restorative justice processes very difficult. There are examples of a child who is embarrassed, not understanding and not able to say what they want, smiling inappropriately, and that being even more stressful for the victim or the victim’s family.
Q206Nick de Bois: Do you echo the call for more practical and better integration between the family proceedings court and the youth court?
Sue Berelowitz: That is a very interesting question.
Q207Nick de Bois: If you do, I would be interested in how you think it can be achieved.
Sue Berelowitz: I have been checking this out. We are very interested. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is very interested in looking at this. I sit on the Family Justice Council and yesterday took the opportunity to check this out. The Family-Criminal Interface Committee, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, is looking at this at the moment and it is due to report either at the end of 2012 or early in 2013. Alison Russell QC is drawing up new draft guidance for judges. My understanding is that this will be led by Mr Justice Ryder in terms of getting the guidance out to judges. What we are interested in-obviously, I need to see what this Committee will come up with-is that there should be the capacity for the youth justice court to refer a child to the family court. That is where I think the interface needs to take place. There are huge changes coming in the family justice system whereby there will be a single court. Magistrates who sit in both the youth justice and the family courts will all be coming together with district judges who sit in the family court. This is probably as good a time as there ever will be for looking at this and bringing some coherence to it, because these children need the support that will arise from the family court system.
Q208Nick de Bois: But you would support that.
Sue Berelowitz: I want to look at the detail, but in principle I think that makes very good sense.
Q209Jeremy Corbyn: What specific features of the transition to adulthood pilots have been successful and what have not been?
Debbie Pippard: If I may refresh your memories about the pilots, there are three working in different parts of the country with three slightly different groups of young people at different stages of the criminal justice process. I would highlight two aspects of them. One is a concentration on the developing maturity of the young person. Lots of things that the other witnesses were talking about have real echoes for this, because there is not a sudden cut-off between the under-18s and the over-18s; it is a transition. Those pilots looked at the maturity of the young person, working with the individual and identifying that person’s own particular needs and developing a package of care or support that will address those needs. The other aspect was ensuring a smooth transition from youth to adult services. The recent joint report by the probation and prison inspectorates is very interesting and insightful on some of the things that go on in transitions.
In a bit more detail, the approach was tailored to individual needs, looking at the factors that support desistance from crime: employment, training, good health, wellbeing, accommodation and so on. They had very good results in all those areas. They were a complement to statutory services, so they ran alongside them. One of the useful things that came out of that was a separation between the sanctions and formal parts of an order and these other parts. Clearly, a very good member of staff can distinguish those two areas and work both on sanctions and in a more supportive way as well, but it was easier in the pilots to separate them out.
The quality of the relationship was extremely important. So often these workers were acting as mentors or role models for the young people. It was clear from all the work we did and all the anecdotes we had from the young people involved that they looked up and respected their T2A workers very highly and looked to them for support.
The final thing was expertise in working with this age group. When you get to the adult services, people are working with a very large age range. The evidence seems to be that many probation officers are not given much training and support in understanding maturity or even child development, so some of them lack this area of expertise.
Q210Jeremy Corbyn: Almost a quarter of all offences dealt with by magistrates courts are committed by those aged between 18 and 24. Clearly, that is wholly disproportionate to the age make-up of the population. Do you think that the arbitrary transition to adulthood at 18 should be looked at again? There is an assumption that miraculously on their 18th birthday the young person becomes an adult, whereas in reality social development, brain development, maturity and so on happen over a much longer and slower period. Should we have a different approach, certainly to the 18-plus and those in their early 20s?
Debbie Pippard: We would definitely advocate that. Best practice in other countries shows that it can be done, and it could be done here.
Q211Jeremy Corbyn: Could you give me an example of best practice?
Debbie Pippard: Germany is the go-to model for this. Interestingly, they are looking at putting more people aged up to 21 through the juvenile justice process. Logic and experience show us that growing up is a process. 18 is a day for celebration, but it does not mean that people fully understand what it means to be an adult. I absolutely support what Sue says about people taking responsibility for their actions, but many young people who are entering the adult service need more support in understanding why what they have done is wrong and how they can be helped to go straight. Many of them need support with accommodation. They are people who will find it extremely difficult to go into education. They may not have had a good experience of training and education. Often they do not have stable housing. Putting some supportive services in place alongside the sanctions gives those young people opportunity to change their lives around, whereas just putting them into an adult service, expecting them suddenly to understand that they have got to be at probation at 9 o’clock in the morning for their appointment, will almost set them up to fail. One of the big success stories of the pilots was a reduction in breach rates. That is probably where some of the cost savings come from. If breach rates can be reduced, it saves an enormous amount of the time of probation statutory staff, which can then be put into some more productive things.
Professor Bryan: There is also very strong evidence emerging from brain studies of adolescence to suggest that particularly frontal lobe areas develop through to early 20s. We know that at the stage from 16 through to early 20s-it is a little slower in boys than girls-the frontal lobe skills around organisation, reasoning, understanding cause and effect and the ability to prepare in advance to prevent yourself being put in a difficult situation are still developing in the adolescent brain. Again, there is not a sudden cut-off whereby the brain is fully functioning at 18. We know that that goes on until probably the early 20s. For some young people that process may be a little slower for various reasons.
Debbie Pippard: I want to pick up one point Sue made about a report being published on Friday. On Friday we also have a report being published by the same author about acquired brain injury. The proportion of young people in the custodial estate with acquired brain injury is astonishing. Up to 60% have got some level of brain injury. Mild injury can affect those very brain functions Karen was talking about which help you to think about the consequences of your actions, to plan ahead and to empathise with others. So all the things that increase people’s propensity to commit crime, or prevent them from refraining from crime, are affected by brain injury. I have brought you a copy of the summary and will leave it for you today.
Q212Jeremy Corbyn: Because we have the age of 18 for adult responsibility, obviously it has implications, in that anyone aged 18 or over who is sentenced to custody goes into an adult prison. Have you given any thought or consideration to extending the age of juvenile responsibility beyond 18, which would then impact on how the prison and justice systems operate? Have you done any studies to compare it with what happens in other countries?
Debbie Pippard: We are about to publish a report on best practice around young people in custody very shortly, so we can let you have a copy of that.
Q213Jeremy Corbyn: When you say "young people", what ages are you looking at?
Debbie Pippard: We are looking at 18 to 24-ish, but we do not want to replace one arbitrary cut-off with another. We see this as a stage of life. In the joint report by the probation and prison inspectorates on transitions there were some very helpful examples of porous boundaries. Some people were held within the juvenile system after their 18th birthday because their particular circumstances, plus their vulnerability, made it more suitable for them to be held in that service. Some porosity would be extremely helpful.
Sue Berelowitz: In terms of police custody suites, of course children are considered to have reached their majority at the age of 17, so that is another dimension to this.
Q214Yasmin Qureshi: I want to explore the mental health needs of children, in particular the report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner last year that looked into the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children in the youth justice system. It identified a number of different problems, the main one being the variation in the level of support and services provided throughout the country. It came up with some recommendations as well, one being that provision in custody should mirror provision in the community. Against that background, I want to ask Ms Berelowitz: is the variation in services for young people with mental health needs the result of under-identification or a lack of provision? Are you able to tell us what proportion of YOTs and secure institutions employ qualified staff?
Sue Berelowitz: First, it is a combination of both. There is both lack of identification and issues around culture and practice. That links to issues of quality of leadership, which were flagged up in that report very substantially. For example, on the rare occasions when you find speech and language therapists in children’s prisons that is often to do with leadership where the governor or director of the prison has established a very good relationship with local commissioners. It means that they have been able to lever in additional support, whether on a short or long-term basis. It is a combination. Commissioners need to have the understanding that it is very important to provide children in custody with the services they need.
On your question about the number of qualified mental health staff across the secure estate, and in community provision-YOTs-it has been a difficult one to get an answer to. The YJB have delved into it, but it transpires that they do not actually collect the data, and it is not held centrally anywhere. I will tell you what we have got. On 30 June 2011 there were 278 YOT staff seconded from health. Not all of them were qualified; some were administrative staff. There is not a health secondee in every YOT: 21 YOTs had no health secondees at all. One-the Wessex YOT-had 17 health secondees, so there is disproportionality.
I shall now go back to the issue about leadership, relationships and so on, particularly with commissioners. 151 YOTs had a child and adolescent mental health worker, and of those, 89 also had facilities to deal with physical as well as mental health, but nobody was sure whether it was the same worker who was picking up physical and mental health. Therefore, again there are questions about qualifications. Six YOTs appear to have no health workers at all, and a further 62 have only a CAMHS worker, so they have nobody dealing with issues around physical health, which for these children are very substantial.
In relation to the secure estate, data is not collected. There was a question about what is meant by "qualified". It transpires that the YJB specifies that mental health workers should be what they call first-level trained, which means that they simply have a degree but not necessarily a mental health qualification. In the investigation that culminated in the report you have seen, in one prison I found a large mental health team. There were five in a YOI. They were all adult qualified mental health practitioners, but not one of them was qualified as a children’s mental health practitioner, and they were applying adult assessment tools to the children. So the issue of qualification is quite an interesting one. I am happy to say that that has been acted on; they have all gone, and now there are qualified children’s mental health practitioners in that prison. But there was a mixture across the secure estate of CAMHS nurses, general nurses, CPNs and so on, not necessarily all in the right place at the right time. There may not be anybody with a mental health qualification present at the screening process, which is terribly important. In terms of secure training centres and secure children’s homes, nobody really knows the situation.
Q215Yasmin Qureshi: Is it the case that maybe the reasons for the way vulnerable young offenders are treated in the criminal justice system stem not so much from under-resourcing, or even culture, but from not identifying the right people for the process to help the youngsters?
Sue Berelowitz: It is a combination of factors. We are in a slightly uncertain world now with the changes to the NHS. Children’s health provision will come through the national Commissioning Board rather than local clinical commissioning groups, which I hope will ensure some consistency across the secure estate, but let us hope it is consistency at a high level. Minimum standards should be set for what children in the secure estate need in terms of both their physical and their mental health. Both are very important and there is an interrelationship between the two. One of the paediatricians who accompanied me on my visits when I was doing the work on that investigation felt that all children in the secure estate should have a paediatric assessment because of concerns about other types of disorders that had not been picked up-hence our investigation into neuro-disability among children in the criminal justice system.
Q216Yasmin Qureshi: Do you think there are services in place to help the transition process for young offenders as they move into adulthood-or what further do you think could be done?
Sue Berelowitz: I will be very brief, and then pass the question on to Ms Pippard. I do not visit 18 to 24-year-olds; I stop at the 18-year-olds-but from the anxieties that children share with me about their transition, when they are moving on to an adult prison, it is quite clear that much more needs to be done to support them. There are acute anxieties. With boys sometimes you get a lot of bravado, but underneath that is a lot of anxiety. The girls articulate that anxiety to a much greater degree. It is certainly there, and I would have thought much more needs to be done.
Debbie Pippard: Three things need to be done, and one is preparation. As Sue says, it is bound to be a fantastically anxious time, whether people are in the community or in custody. Then there is paperwork and transfer arrangements that need to happen; and then follow-up once people are in the adult estate. You used the word "services", and there is no reason to think that we need to set up a whole new different thing. Our Birmingham pilot showed that within available resources you could set up a much better service, and that was taken up and very much used as a model by the YJB’s recent transition framework, which we welcome and look forward to being rolled out. You need to prepare the young person and have some sort of handover. They have set up a very good protocol. Then there is the kind of transition services and additional support as people become adults in adult services, which can be tapered off as they grow up and learn to develop independent lives. The model created within our Birmingham pilot is sufficiently compelling for the whole of Staffordshire and West Midlands probation services to be reorganised around this transition age. They are rolling that out in the biggest probation service in the country.
Chair: Thank you very much all three of you. You have given us concentrated but very valuable evidence, and we much appreciate it.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Hugh Thornbery, Director of Business Development, Action for Children, Ian Langley, Strategic Lead, Supporting Troubled Families Programme, Hampshire County Council, Clare Hobbs, Manager, Wessex Dance Academy, and Dr Becky Morland, Consultant Counselling Psychologist and Senior Manager of Health and Family Intervention Team, Peterborough Youth Offending Service, gave evidence.
Chair: We welcome our four witnesses, who the Chair cannot see very well because of the otherwise welcome sunshine. I trust that I have in front of me Clare Hobbs from Wessex Dance Academy; Ian Langley from the Troubled Families Programme at Hampshire County Council; Dr Becky Morland, consultant counselling psychologist at Peterborough Youth Offending Team; and Hugh Thornbery, director of business development at Action for Children. We are very grateful to you for coming to help us this morning. I ask Nick de Bois to open the questioning.
Q217Nick de Bois: Dr Morland, perhaps I may turn to you. I would like to talk briefly about multi-systemic therapy. I will get straight to the point because I know time is pressing. Can you give me your assessment of what proportion of a typical youth offender team cohort would be eligible for and benefit from MST? I would also be interested in how many parents buy into that.
Dr Morland: There has to be parental buy-in to MST; otherwise it cannot go ahead. That would be for all cases. In a typical youth offending team anything up to about 50% of cases would be eligible to go forward for MST. Looking at the Peterborough figures, about 57% of the cases that have gone to MST have had an offending history.
Q218Nick de Bois: In terms of early outcomes in Peterborough, what do they indicate about the effectiveness of MST? Are you in a position to be able to compare them with elsewhere? For the record, could you also tell me how long you have been practising this in Peterborough?
Dr Morland: MST started in Peterborough in August 2008 and I joined in March 2009. I have been the back-up supervisor for the MST team for that period of time. MST has over 30 years’ history of evidence to show that it is effective for young people with antisocial behaviour and their offending.
Q219Nick de Bois: That is 30 years’ evidence based on what has been going on in America.
Dr Morland: Yes, and that has been transported. There are now studies to support implementation in England. It is a newer intervention in the UK. There is a lot of data from America on short and long-term outcomes. There is a Brandon Centre paper about implementation in London and the benefits in London. Taking Peterborough specifically, at the moment we can say that overall there is a 60% reduction in reoffending rates following MST. At 12-month follow-ups, 78% of young people had not reoffended, and at 18 months 73% of young people had not reoffended following intervention, whereas before 57% were offending, and a lot of those who were not offending were at risk of offending as well.
Q220Nick de Bois: I am sorry to interrupt, but we-or at least I-can get bamboozled by statistics very easily.
Dr Morland: We’ve got lots of statistics.
Q221Nick de Bois: If I were to compare this with elsewhere outside Peterborough, am I right that reoffending rates in this particular age group are around 60%? Is that within a year? You are looking at between a year and 18 months.
Dr Morland: Yes; I think that is within a year.
Q222Nick de Bois: How do those results compare with the results in the US that you are pointing to? These are results you have had in Peterborough, are they not?
Dr Morland: Yes. In the United States long-term outcomes show that arrest rates reduce between 25% and 70%.
Q223Nick de Bois: What would you say is the reason behind the implicit success of your early results? Why is this more successful than other interventions?
Dr Morland: MST follows an analytical process that looks at all the factors that contribute to offending and reoffending. It looks at all the factors proven in research: the family; what happens in the home; what is happening with the schools and in the neighbourhood; it looks at peers and the individual factors of the child. In every single case all of those factors are analysed and intervened upon. There is also an intensive intervention. It is three to four sessions a week and 24 hours on call. The sessions are arranged around the family so they are flexible. It happens within the natural environment of the family and the young person, so all of the work is done in the home, school and community rather than bringing families into sessions in a clinic.
Q224Nick de Bois: I know that groups like St Giles Trust work with other offenders. Who are the people you employ in this programme to work with offenders? What is their background and training?
Dr Morland: They are psychologists. A team can have three to four therapists, so they would usually be psychiatric nurses, ex-probation and social workers.
Q225Nick de Bois: That is the make-up of the team, is it?
Dr Morland: Yes.
Q226Mr Llwyd: Mr Thornbery, the results of the first cohort that went through the Youth Justice Board intensive fostering pilots were very positive, but then it appeared that reoffending rates rose to almost mirror those of comparable young offenders. Has this trend continued, and what would be your explanation or comment on it?
Hugh Thornbery: One of the things we did following the research that came out in 2010 was ramp up the post-programme support. There is now in place an after-care programme both for the young people when they finish the formal programme and for parents or carers. We are not party to any more detailed information about success and reconviction rates because that information is with the Youth Justice Board. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the longitudinal research there. What I can say is that our response to the disappointing long-term results has been to provide longer-term support for up to 12 weeks after the programme finishes. That is formally available. After the initial three months, we can then respond to requests from the youth offending team worker, the child’s social worker or the parent or child themselves. That would normally be telephone support for that longer period of time, and that would be ongoing as long as it was required.
Q227Mr Llwyd: For what proportion of young offenders do you think this scheme would be suitable?
Hugh Thornbery: The Youth Justice Board has said it would be for up to 150 young offenders a year. It is difficult to determine exactly. What we are clear about is that young people entering the programme have to agree. It will not work unless they fully agree, so they sign a contract to become involved. We would not take young people on to the programme who were convicted of sexual offences or had chronic long-term substance misuse-drug/alcohol problems-but otherwise, as an alternative to custody and subject to that agreement, we think most young people within the age range would be suitable for this.
Mr Llwyd: I think we saw a similar model in Denmark, did we not? It was quite an interesting model run on the same lines, which seems to be delivering there as well.
Q228Steve Brine: Clare, members will have been able to see the notes about the Wessex Dance Academy and a little bit of what you are about. I have the benefit of having visited and seen you in situ. Clare, could you briefly give the Committee a sense of the dance involved here? Obviously, dance is a term that covers a wide variety of sins. Why is this not a jolly, but quite intensive dance?
Clare Hobbs: The dance we use at Wessex Dance Academy is contemporary. We use professional contemporary dance training over 12 weeks with young people. It is important they understand what type of dance it is. Often, when we go and speak to them they have no idea what contemporary dance is, but we reassure them that it is not street dance; it is not salsa; it is not what you see on "Strictly"; it is proper falling-over-slowly dancing that you see at Sadler’s Wells.
We use contemporary dance based on a model Dance United created about eight years ago with its dance academy in Yorkshire. Contemporary dance requires extreme focus and stillness, and it is not what they are used to. They all arrive never having done it before, so it is not that one young person might have done a bit of street dancing. They all come from the same place; they have never done it before, and it is not something that we expect them to do. For the first three weeks we do only dance; that is all we do with them. They come and do class in the morning to learn some technique and then go on to create a 20-minute piece of choreography that is performed in front of an audience at the end of those three weeks.
What is very special about the academy-and what is very special for the people who come to see those young people, those people who have referred them-is that what they see on stage are young people standing very still in focus, performing gracefully, looking as they have never seen them before. They display a sense of commitment to the choreography that leaves their referrers, their teachers, their parents and their carers speechless. That is the magic of using contemporary dance with them.
Q229Steve Brine: Why do you think the academy has achieved greater reductions in reoffending by young offenders-the figures are before the Committee-than other interventions? What is special?
Clare Hobbs: What is very special is that it is a very intensive programme over 12 weeks. Young people come for their breakfast at 9.30. They have lunch with us and leave at 4 o’clock. A lot of these young people have not been in school and are not engaging in anything, so this is a massive deal for them. This is what happens to them over those 12 weeks. On the whole, the young people we have-I hope I do not speak out of turn-are not getting up in the morning. Perhaps they are going to an appointment in the afternoon, and they are socialising late at night and into the early hours. Their whole routine is completely at odds with ours and with the demand for them to go to school. We nourish them with good food and wear them out. They have to wake up in the morning, so they get up. Then they go home and they are really exhausted. Rather than go out with their mates, they go to bed because either they ache or they know they have got to do a different class in the morning. We nourish all of them over time; we nourish their physicality, because their bodies are changing. We nourish them inside because we are feeding them proper food. We do not allow any food in, and we have wonderful lunches; we get them to eat lots of fruit, and we work with them on their bodies. We are physically changing them.
A simple point is that they are surrounded by lovely people for 12 weeks. We have lots of volunteers who come in and work with the young people on housing issues, serve up lunches and also do a qualification with them. They are surrounded and saturated for 12 weeks with positive things, and they are achieving. At the end of the 12 weeks they perform a 20-minute piece of performance-a piece that they have made themselves, and that we have brought somebody else in for. There are little steps along the way. It is a whole load of things, Steve, but it is just the whole nourishment of them.
Q230Steve Brine: We will come on briefly to how they are chosen but, before we do that, can you expand on why the public performance is important? You say in the notes that they go to a public theatre and the families come and watch them do that.
Clare Hobbs: Often, these young people have not achieved very much in their lives. When they come they do not believe us when we say, "In three weeks you’re going to be performing in front of 400 people at the Theatre Royal in Winchester." It is crucial that that takes place because it is not until they have that performance that they realise they can achieve, that they can do something. They do it in front of so many people who then see them completely differently. After that performance there is a shift in their belief in themselves and in us. They then believe us a little more; there is a little more trust. It is important that people see these young people. It is not just a sloppy piece of dance that they are putting on. This is programmed in our local theatre’s brochure three times a year; it is recognised as a wonderful piece of dance. It is important for the academy’s existence that people see the performance and the good these young people are doing, because it takes 45 minutes for them to see that.
Q231Steve Brine: Mr Langley, with regard to choosing the participants, they are people who have offended, they are young people who are subject to court orders, and they are also looked-after children deemed to be at risk of offending. I am very interested. When we were on our travels in Europe we looked at taking people deemed to be at risk of offending, or maybe on the conveyor belt to offending. How on earth do you select people for this programme who are deemed to be at risk?
Ian Langley: May I just start by saying that I am seconded into my current role, but I am here as head of Hampshire’s youth offending team, so it is from that perspective that I am giving evidence rather than the troubled families aspect, although there are many overlaps. We have taken young people on licence straight out of custody. We have a local authority secure children’s home: Swanwick Lodge in Hampshire. We have taken young people who are still in the secure estate on day release. The youth offending team has quite an established youth crime prevention team, so a lot of the youngsters at the lower end that you are referring to are identified. There may be younger siblings of young adult offenders that we can target as well. We also get lots of interest from pupil referral units. They are another key target audience.
It took some time to convince some of the professionals of the value of it, but, as Clare says, a lot of them have seen it for themselves. We are generally not short of referrals of young people to this programme. Essentially, they come in and Clare and her team will see each young person individually. It is a voluntary thing. It requires some commitment, but it also needs a lot of support, usually from professionals. We take from all over Hampshire, not just Winchester. We take young people from Gosport, which is a fair way away, so issues around travel and so on need to be sorted out and there is professional support regarding that.
It is not made a condition of anybody’s order or licence or whatever, but we find that if you have the professionals on board, believing in the value of it, they will identify the young people they think will be most suitable for this programme. There is no bar in terms of what they have done-offences and so on. We take everyone on their merits.
Q232Yasmin Qureshi: Can I explore the vexed question of the cost of these things? Your organisations work with different types of programmes, and you probably have an idea of how much they cost. Perhaps I can just give you some facts and figures regarding most of the well-known forms of disposals for youngsters. A final warning costs between £200 and £1,200; a referral order is £2,000 to £4,000; a youth rehabilitation order is anything between £1,000 and £4,000; intensive supervision is between £7,000 and £8,000; a detention and training order is about £20,000 to £50,000; multi-systemic therapy costs about £7,000 to £9,000 per average intervention; intensive fostering over the course of a year is about £68,000; and for the Dance Academy it is about £2,000 for a young person.
Bearing in mind those official figures for the most common routine disposal of cases and interventions, how do some of the things you are involved with compare with these figures, and with like-for-like groups of offenders-groups of offenders in those areas similar to the ones that you deal with? How cost-effective are the new provisions that you work with compared with the official figures for these well-known disposals?
Dr Morland: The Brandon Centre’s research looked at the cost of MST. They found that the money spent on MST was saved in terms of the other professionals who were not involved at that time-and that money was saved again, based on the fact that reoffending was reduced over the next couple of years. So you spend no more in delivering it but you also save in the long term as well.
Hugh Thornbery: As you have rightly said, intensive fostering costs about £68,000 per nine-month programme. Research by the university of York in 2010 compared that with the cost of about £54,000 for an average custodial sentence of four months.
There is also an issue around how one compares the costs of different interventions. Intensive fostering captures the whole intervention: the foster placement for the young person; the therapeutic interventions; the skills interventions; and work with family that hopefully enables things to be more stable if the young person returns home. The custody costs are just the incarceration costs; there are not all those other costs. There is a general difficulty here in comparing because in terms of the cost base you are not comparing like with like. Probably more work needs to be done on that.
If we think about reconviction rates and the fact that young people in intensive fostering are five times less likely to reoffend over time than those who went into custodial institutions, and also that the seriousness of reoffending is lower, we can begin to take account of the broader social costs. I think it is good value for money. I also think that, if some of these interventions were scaled up, you would see greater value for money, because there is a high cost in running a small-scale pilot intervention, as we have had with intensive fostering for a number of years. If it was scaled up and included others who could possibly go into it rather than into custody, we would see a rebalancing of the bald figures that are presented at the moment.
Ian Langley: The costs of the Dance Academy programme are now £4,500, not £2,500, because it is now a 12-week programme, whereas in previous years it was a three to four-week programme. Not all of that cost falls on the public purse. I have been in public service for quite a few years, and this is a unique partnership between the state sector-Hampshire County Council-and the private sector, for example, the Theatre Royal at Winchester. We make a small charge to come and see the performance, so that provides some revenue. There is also the involvement of Winchester university’s dance school, which provides support, and Dance United has already been mentioned. It is a partnership. From the youth offending point of view I am used to working in partnerships, but in my experience that partnership is unique, and not all the cost falls on the public purse.
Clare Hobbs: I cannot add any more to that.
Dr Morland: The thing I did not say earlier is that MST also saves money in terms of placements in foster care, adoption and residential schools, which are all expensive placements. For a cost of £8,000 or £10,000 you could literally save hundreds of thousands of pounds in just one case, because the numbers who remain at home, out of custody and in mainstream schools are highly significant.
Q233Yasmin Qureshi: Is it easy to work out and demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of interventions? Do you think the Youth Justice Board could do more to facilitate this process?
Hugh Thornbery: This is related to my last answer. It is difficult because we are comparing a range of different things. Going back to my example citing the cost of custody, there would be a capital cost if we had to build more custodial institutions because we needed a larger estate. The "capital costs" of intensive fostering are included in our unit costs, because there is a cost to recruiting a foster carer. A basic foster carer costs £12,000 and an intensive carer will cost even more.
The Youth Justice Board and their research partners need to do more to bottom out exactly what the real costs of each intervention are, and then one can do a like-for-like comparison. At the moment it is a bit like comparing apples with pears. From work Action for Children has done in other areas, looking at the social return on investment and so on, it is quite possible to do that. It is not a huge challenge, but it requires going beyond the basic comparisons that we have at the moment, which at times are misleading.
Dr Morland: I can’t comment much on the Youth Justice Board, but MST is doing a lot of research in its own right anyway. The START research it is doing at the moment has amalgamated the data, and it will be presented quite soon. It has recruited over 680 families across nine MST sites. All that outcome data will be presented, so MST will do its own calculations and research.
Q234Seema Malhotra: Thank you all for your contributions. It has been incredibly informative and has left me with a lot more questions about the possibilities. Clearly, this is a story that is still being written around intensive fostering and the benefits in reducing reoffending. In a sense, the focus can be on the positives-what is working well-but there will always be challenges in implementation. Some of those issues have been touched on: effective recruitment; perhaps engaging families and parents as well; and engaging those within the justice system and winning over their confidence in the possibilities. I am particularly interested to understand what challenges you faced in setting up the programme. Some of those will be ongoing. That may include funding challenges-certainly, funding was not available across the board-but there could be other issues in terms of finding the right young people, winning confidence and all that potentially helping, or not helping, the argument for roll-out.
Clare Hobbs: The recruitment that you mentioned is crucial for us. We are working with a very small number of young people in our cohorts. I mentioned earlier that it is a 12week programme, but the most important time is day one of week 13, when they have left us. The recruitment process is crucial. The challenge we face is that people say, "Why dance? What is it about dance?" The only way we can demonstrate that is actually to do it with these young people.
Q235Seema Malhotra: Can I clarify what you mean by "people"? Who are those people?
Clare Hobbs: In terms of recruitment, as Ian said earlier, it is about working with professionals, and about those professionals making the right referrals. It is important that they do not just say to the young person, "Oh, there’s this dance project. You don’t want to do that, do you?" but that they engage positively themselves and sell it to them. We can’t speak to everybody. It is a matter of getting professionals who have worked within youth offending and social care teams to see that it is a plausible alternative, not just a poncy "dance" thing but something that carries some weight. People are sometimes very scared of things they do not know about. If it is an "arty" thing, they might think, "Oh, I’m not into the arts; I don’t really engage with this, so how can I engage this young person?", but, as it is beginning to roll out, people see what it is and what it is doing.
Q236Seema Malhotra: If I can just push the question back again, because anyone could be encompassed within the system, are you saying that there is a major issue about winning over the professionals in the justice system and that the resistance is at that point, rather than on the part of young people?
Clare Hobbs: Yes, definitely. Youth justice has in the past done a lot of work using the arts, but it has not been deep enough. This is an intensive programme that can demonstrate the benefits that it brings. The referring partners and the people who surround these young people are important, and there are often a lot of them. We keep in touch with them all the way through the 12-week programme and hand back to them. It is important that we provide a wrap-around service for the young people, so as they come towards the last six weeks of the project we are working very closely with them on an exit strategy. Because they have been involved in a very homely and supportive environment for 12 weeks, it is important that we hand them back to something that is equally supportive.
It is not just about getting the referrers to understand the positives in the young people doing the project; it is getting them to understand what they have achieved when they come out. A lot of our young people have gone back to a full timetable, when they have not been on a timetable before. It has been hard to work with pupil referral units, teachers and even some colleges, to get them to believe that the young person who did not do anything at the beginning of this project is capable of doing a full day by the end of it. It is a matter of getting those professionals to believe in it. It is not just getting the young people to do the project; it is catching them at the other end and scooping them on.
Ian Langley: Another journey we have been on is to get permanent premises. Clare has always been clear that these young people need to walk into a dance academy with good facilities, so they realise they are in a special place. It is not just anywhere; it is a place for dance and the arts, and it is different from going to school. It has taken us three years to secure a permanent home. Prior to that, rehearsals had to take place in village halls and community bases, which was not ideal, but since January we are now on our third cohort of young people who have gone through the full 12-week programme in a permanent venue in Winchester. We think that adds greatly to the programme.
As for the reoffending rates, at the moment it is too early to tell, but we think that in a year’s time they will drop even further, because we have gone from a three to four-week programme in temporary accommodation to a 12-week programme. We think that is of tremendous value-and we have achieved it despite the economic climate.
Q237Seema Malhotra: Thinking about other parts of the wider system, are there any issues about relationships with local authorities?
Ian Langley: Obviously, I am a representative of the local authority, but I have to say that Hampshire County Council have been four-square behind this. One senior officer did say initially, "Well, I’m not too sure about this," but has now completely turned round and is fully behind it-for exactly the reasons that Clare has given. Sometimes people think, "Well, why dance?"
Q238Seema Malhotra: How important a factor is the support of the local authority in the success of the project?
Clare Hobbs: It is crucial. These young people are the corporate children of the local authority. Dance United, whose model we work with, also have an academy in London and in Bradford-I may have said that earlier. They go in as an arts organisation. In Wessex we are fortunate in that we are coming at it as a local authority, so those children are there. It has taken a very bold and courageous county council to listen to me tugging at their trousers for three years saying, "This is amazing." They have been very bold and brave, and this is a tool that should be owned by every single person who has a case load of young people, for them to refer their young people to. It is theirs; it should belong to every professional within Hampshire who has young people who could benefit from it.
Ian Langley: We second a member of staff from the YOT to support each programme, as do children’s services. That has real benefits in terms of staff development. They work closely with these youngsters for 12 weeks. That has been another very important factor.
Q239Chair: It is obvious that you are an enthusiast for dance and the role it can play, but could this not be applied through other things, like choral singing or anything else, that tries to concentrate collective effort?
Clare Hobbs: That is a really good question. I am passionate about young people, and I asked the same question when we started this. Why dance? What is very special about it is the stillness and the touching. We have seen Gareth Malone do various things. I am sure that if you set him up he could do something similar, but what is very special is not only the performance element but people’s confidence in their bodies and being able physically to relate to other people not in an abusive or aggressive way. That is crucial. Their bodies change throughout the 12 weeks, so physically they feel and look different. I am not saying that cannot be done in any other way; I am sure it can. I do not know how sustainable it would be over those 12 weeks. Maybe there could be another intervention that did not take so long; I don’t know. You can have tricks with dance and choreography; you can make young people look quite nice. I am not a singer, and I don’t know how many tricks there may be to make them sound like an amazing choir after three weeks.
Q240Chair: Television programmes are currently demonstrating that.
Clare Hobbs: Yes-with a lot of editing, I would imagine. My answer is that I do not know, but using dance and its physicality has had a great effect on the young people.
Q241Chair: Do you have any disciplinary issues and problems to deal with?
Clare Hobbs: All the time. Please do not think this is an easy project to work on. We are expecting a huge amount from these young people. They have to take off their shoes and socks, their make-up and their jewellery. They are not used to behaving in a learning environment. We create with them an environment where they learn. We have behavioural steps. They will get a verbal warning, a written warning, and then we will work up a behaviour contract. We do not keep them there because we need to get 20 people on the stage; they earn their place to stay there, and they have to behave. as Ian said, we have a professional space and we treat them like professionals. When they come in, whoever they are, they are not "a young offender", "a child in care", or "somebody from a secure unit"; they are-often, for example-"Kayleigh". We see them as dancers and try to strip them of the other labels, so they begin to strip those from themselves when they leave. That is crucial.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed. We are grateful to all of you for the evidence you have given us this morning.