Memorandum by The Church of England Board
for Social Responsibility Home Affairs Committee
1. This short paper submitted by the Board's
Home Affairs Committee to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee
will focus its evidence narrowly on our concerns surrounding levels
of resourcing for young offenders under the age of 21 particularly
in relation to proposed arrangements outlined in the Crime and
Disorder Bill for the effective supervision of identified offenders
and preventive measures for those at risk. Our concerns about
these issues are further fuelled by the Home Secretary's willingness
to allocate an additional £70 million towards the expansion
of prison places, some of which will be dedicated to supplying
extra places for young offenders.
2. In the light of the Government's two
year moratorium on public spending we contrast a position where
little or no extra money will be made available for the proposed
youth offending teams yet at the same time public money will be
made available for the insatiable demands of the custodial sector
with an anticipated prison population of all eligible age groups
of 70,000 by the end of year and, possibly, 90,000 places by the
3. We suggest that if the ambitious and
laudable aims of the Home Secretary in relation to the reduction
of crime among young offenders are to be met, a better balance
needs to be identified as an adequate funding pattern for community
based interventions and containment of the escalating numbers
within the penal estate.
4. The Home Affairs Committee of the Church
of England Board for Social Responsibility is grateful for the
opportunity to respond to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee
in its Inquiry into Alternatives to Prison Sentences. The Church
of England has had a long involvement with the penal system, both
through the provision of chaplaincy and through the work of individuals
within the system. In addition, there are charities and churches
which work with offenders, both in custody and in the community.
Within the Church of England, matters of criminal justice policy
are discussed both in the General Synod Board for Social Responsibility,
through its Home Affairs Committee, and in Lambeth Palace. The
Home Affairs Committee is chaired by the Bishop of Lincoln, who
as Bishop to Prisons also has pastoral concern of prison chaplains.
The experience of chaplains, and of churches providing pastoral
care of offenders, feeds into the thinking of the Home Affairs
Committee, but it is the issue of policy which is the concern
of that committee.
5. Questions of policy may be raised by
Bishops in the House of Lords during debates on criminal justice
legislation, and Bishops have taken a particular interest in the
Crime and Disorder Bill currently in Parliament. Other ways in
which policy may be discussed are through the speeches of the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the speeches of individual
Bishops and conferences organized by dioceses. In particular we
would draw attention to the series of conferences held in Lincoln
during the 1980s-1990s and hosted by the Bishop of Lincoln. Finally
there is the work of the Home Affairs Committee itself, which
responds to Government White Papers and publishes leaflets and
reports on criminal justice matters. In 1996 the Committee published
Private Sector Involvement in Prisons, which was submitted
to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. In 1998 it published
the leaflet Young People and Crime. It is within this broad
context that the Board for Social Responsibility now makes its
submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.
6. Theologically, there are two points which
we would wish to stress. One concerns the importance of relationships,
and the other that of the family in contemporary society. The
Archbishop of Canterbury in his speech to the Prison Reform Trust
as their annual lecture in 1996 (published by the P.R.T. under
the title Restoring Relationships) emphasized the need
to keep the purposes of punishment in balance. The aim of restoring
relationships means that there must be a constructive balance
between the role of punishment, deterrence, reparation and rehabilitation.
The Crime and Disorder Bill takes a welcome step in encouraging
reparation between offender and victim. Secondly, the importance
of the family background of offenders must always be kept in mind.
The Church of England, in partnership with the Children's Society
and other agencies, seeks to build up the strength of family relationships
against the pressures of modern society. In our leaflet Young
People and Crime we draw attention to the troubled family
background of many young offenders. The centrality of the family
in Christian teaching is central to our submission, and it is
within this perspective that we now turn to a detailed examination
of the resources for young offenders under the age of 21.
7. The Characteristics of Young Offenders
Much has been written in recent times about
the characteristics of young people which place them at risk of
crime. The Audit Commission Report on "Misspent Youth"
identified the following risk factors. Young people:
in families with
inadequate parental supervision;
in school such as truancy or school exclusion;
who mix with
others who offend;
without a stable
who are not in
employment or education;
with a heavy
use of alcohol and drugs.
8. Sir William Utting's report "People
Like Us" (1997) on children leaving care further highlighted
the vulnerability of a particular group who fall into the criminal
justice net. He highlights their social and educational deficits
as well as their over representation in penal institutions.
More than 75
per cent of care leavers have no academic qualifications of any
More than 50
per cent of young people leaving care after 16 years are unemployed.
30 per cent of
young single homeless people have been in care.
23 per cent of
adult prisoners and 38 per cent of young prisoners have been in
9. Utting's Report exposes deficiencies
in the implementation of Section 24 of the 1989 Children Act suggesting
provisions need to be strengthened because child care services
are taking a poor second place to child protection and community
care demands. He concluded that Section 24 "should be amended
to extend the duty of local authorities to give assistance to
young people they have looked after, including foster carers to
continue providing support". He also observed that "local
authorities should exercise their duties and powers under the
Act in the spirit of responsible parents. No responsible parent,
however, turns a child away at 16 or even 18unsupported
financially and emotionally without hope of succour in distress.
We are particularly concerned by the volume of anecdotal information
about young people ceasing to be looked after at the age of 16
which suggests that some authorities operate informal policies
of encouraging premature "independence".
10. The linkage between the Audit Committee
observations, Utting's Report and the Chief Inspector of Prisons
Thematic Review of Young Prisoners in October 1997 is telling.
In profiling young male prisoners, Sir David Ramsbotham observes:
proportion of young people had a history of care or social services
contact (over50 per cent of under 18s)
50 per cent excluded
Two thirds no
Two thirds unemployed
at the time of custody
Two thirds were
One tenth admitted
to self harm
50 per cent of
remanded young males and over 30 per cent of sentenced young have
a diagnosable mental disorder.
11. Of young females, Ramsbotham
27 per cent had
a history of care
49 per cent had
experienced sexual abuse
37 per cent had
39 per cent had
children of their own
12. The custodial population of young offenders
The population of young offenders, aged up to
21 years under sentence, which fell by half between 1980 and 1993,
has risen by 30 per cent in the three years to 1996.
For 14 to 17 year old males there is an upward
trend in the use of custody. Custodial sentences fell from 14
per cent between 1986 and 1988 to nine per cent in 1990 but have
since risen to 13 per cent in 1996.
For 18 to 20 year old males the use of immediate
custody rose to 24 per cent in 1996, from 22 per cent in 1995
and 15-16 per cent in the early 1990s.
For 18-20 year old females the use of immediate
custody has risen to nine per cent from three per cent in the
By June 1996 the remand population for young
offenders (15 to 21 year olds) reached 2,934 of whom 2,833 were
male and 101 female, 74 were aged 15, 197 were 16 and 503 aged
13. The Impact of new legislation
The rise in the sentenced and remand population
of young offenders reflects not only public disquiet about the
most appropriate form of punishment for young people but also
the increased maximum sentence length for juveniles from one to
two years as part of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
1994. The Crime and Disorder Bill in its penal aspects will extend
the powers of youth courts and crown courts to lower age groups
in the proposed Detention and Training Orders, as will the phased
implementation of Secure Training Centres for 12 to 15 year old
boys which become available from 1 April 1998 under the terms
of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
14. The new Detention Training Order requiring
offenders to spend approximately half their sentence in detention
and half under supervision in the community is primarily focused
on the age group of 15 to 18 year olds. However, courts have the
discretion to make such an order in cases of offenders under 15
if they are of the opinion that they are persistent offenders.
In cases where the offender is under 12, the court shall not make
an order unless it is of the opinion that only a custodial sentence
would be adequate to protect the public.
15. In addition to the above, we have learned
that the Prison Department are seeking planning permission to
build another young offender institution for 15 to 21 year old
males adjacent to Belmarsh Prison in Woolwich. London already
has Feltham housing over 850 young inmates. The new YOI is planned
to take an additional 600 plus beds.
16. Our fears are straightforward. If you
raise the total number of bed spaces in institutions for young
people (be they in young offender institutions, secure accommodation,
youth training centres or secure training centres) and, at the
same time, lower the age threshold of eligibility for such regimes
with fairly loose criteria such as "suitability" and
"seriousness of offence" these bed spaces will be filled
by a new and younger generation of offenders. All the sentencing
trends over the past few years in youth courts and crown courts
point in this direction.
17. The level of funding for such bed spaces
is enourmously expensive by comparison to the costs of community
based supervision and foster care. Cash limiting and the public
spending moratorium which applies to local authority services
and probation does not appear to apply to the custodial sector
and youth court magistrates (many of whom are aware of the patchy
nature of local young offender provision in the community), may
be tempted to make full use of the custodial option contained
in the detention and training order even though such programmes
are unlikely to reduce the current re-offence rate for young offender
institutions which stands at 73 per cent within two years of release.
18. Our last point in this secton returns
to the characteristics of inmates in young offender institutions
described by Ramsbotham. We are describing here a significant
number of young people who are fragile, dysfunctional, poorly
educated, lacking in family support and prone to bullying, self
harm and suicide attemtps. Increasing the size and capacity of
such regimes merely panders to society's desire to exile young
people who appear qualitatively different from our own children.
Their background, their stories, their pain, their crimes and
the uncomfortable meaning of their lives are hidden from us. The
complicated, messy debate about what is to be done becomes someone
else's responsibility until the next time.
19. Resourcing Options in the Community
In this section we contrast the patchy and inconsistent
provision in local communties for coping with young offenders
to the growing provision in the custodial sector already described.
20. First, we acknowledge and support the
Government`s initiatives to increase youth offending teams on
a multi-disciplinary basis. Both the legislative proposals and
the structural arrangements for such teams under the responsibility
of local authority Chief Executives appear appropriate and well
conceived. We also support the Social Exclusion Unit in identifying
truancy and school exclusion and its linkage with criminal behaviour
as a prime target for attention and remedial action.
21. We question, however, the funding assumption
in the Crime and Disorder Bill as it relates to young people at
risk of crime in the community. For the most part it is assumed
that these proposals will be cost neutral with significant savings
arising from greater efficiencies as a result of inter-agency
collaboration and avoiding time delays. Part IV of the Bill does
identify an additional £16 million to be spent on introducing
reprimands and warnings and strengthening supervision orders.
However, there has been no systematic study or audit taken of
the state of existing provision at the local level, either in
respect of those agencies which carry a direct responsibility
for the management of young offenders, such as local authorities,
the police, or the probation service or those agencies which have
a wider contribution to make to the support and well being of
young offenders at risk. Theses services might include child and
adolescent mental health provision, youth and community workers,
remedial services for disaffected pupils excluded from school
and foster care, of particular relevance in bail support schemes.
22. Youth offending teams have a primary
task in reducing offending behaviour but they also have a responsibility
to assess a variety of needs and provide or purchase through negotiated
agreements, services from other agencies that are available, promptly
delivered and appropriate. The creation of youth offending teams
will follow local audits of the availability of services and agreed
local strategies. Expectations will be raised not only about the
quantity of delivered programmes in the community and services
to the courts but about meeting gaps in existing resource levels.
23. The accountability for youth offending
teams will rest with the local authority Chief Executive and,
further removed, to the proposed National Youth Justice Board
but the team will also be required to liaise with a wide range
of provider organisations, user groups, courts, parents and individuals
in the fulfilment of its tasks (See Annex A).
Part of our concern rests with the current resourcing level of
key provider agencies located in this network process. We are
concerned that many of these key provider agencies are inadequately
resourced to ensure that the new arrangements are effective.
24. Basic information on resource provision
is far from conclusive as it cannot always be obtained at the
local or central Government level. However, here are some examples
of patchy provision.
25. Child and adolescent mental health services
The House of Commons Health Committee in its
fourth report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS, March
1997) agreed that the current provision of child and mental health
services was inadequate both in quality and geographical spread.
Even the Government's witnesses acknowledged the failings of the
26. "The Provision of Mental Health,
not just as it applies to children and adolescents but across
the Board, has historically been considered a Cinderella Service"
27. Services provided by local authorities
to CAMHS by seconded psychiatric social workers and educational
psychologists have increasingly been withdrawn. Additionally,
in a chapter on anti-social behaviour and conduct disorder the
Committee concluded that under current arrangements there is little
effective alternative education provided for excluded children
which may well contribute not to reducing but to perpetuating
patterns of conduct disorder and anti-social behaviour. Clearly,
these concerns should be addressed by the newly formed Social
Exclusion Unit in their proposals to the Prime Minsiter and we
await their findings with interest.
28. Youth and Community Workers
The Audit Commission report "Misspent Youth"
outlined the important role social workers play in providing constructive
leisure pursuits in local communities. We have, through the National
Youth Agency, sought details about the number of youth community
posts which have been lost or withdrawn over the past five years
as a result of pressure on cash limited local authority budgets.
While we have not been able to find hard data, anecdotally, we
understand there have been considerable losses amounting to hundreds
29. We recommend that the Department of
Education and Employment provide through local authority data
an accurate assessment of the current provision of youth and community
workers, indicating the number of lost posts.
30. Bail support and foster care
The Audit Commission Report on "Misspent
Youth" and the Home Secretary's White Paper entitled "No
More Excuses" have both outlined the need for bail support
schemes that are focused on structured activity that reduces the
chances of young offenders committing further offences on bail.
While the majority of Social Services Departments provide some
form of bail support, there is uneven provision in England and
Wales. There needs to be a dual provision, not always currently
available at the local level, whereby the local authority or an
independent provider not only offers a structured day programme
for young bailees but available access to foster care for those
defendants, particularly aged 16 to 17 with no family support.
31. The Audit Commission survey of 600 sentenced
young offenders found that one third of those remanded in custody
who were subsequently found guilty were not given a custodial
sentence. "Some remands can be avoided, and resources saved,
by the use of intensive support for those on bail. While extra
costs fall on local authority Social Services, they would be offset
by savings to the Prison Service, requiring some transfer of resources."
(Audit Commission Report, 1996).
The discussion of options in the community has
focused on a number of concerns about the level of services for
youth at risk in the community. While there is no doubt about
the goodwill of agencies at the local level forming together to
create youth offending teams, there has been little public discussion
about the level of support services that currently exist and their
ability to cope with rising expectations of demand and high quality
interventions which focus on health, recreational outlets, education,
residential care including fostering and supporting families and
children at risk.
33. Jerry Miller, the Director of the National
Institute for Sentencing Alternatives in Washington DC in a book
describing his experiences as the Youth Corrections Commissioner
for Massachusetts in the seventies observed the following.
"The less the resources,
the more punishment was seen as beneficial for the youth. When
the person making the diagnosis is aware of the variety of alternatives
or non-institutional options for treatment and handling, he or
she gives less extreme, less rigid and less restrictive diagnosis.
Wanting this, the diagnosis becomes more judgmental and punitive.
It seems that if we are to
make progress in understanding and controlling delinquents, the
treatment options must be guaranteed before any diagnosis is made.
Unless this is clearly understood, diagnostic and classification
procedures will mislead us and label youngsters to fit organisational
needs. When clinicians routinely label a youth "anti-social
in need of institutionalisation" they are more likely to
betray their lack of imagination concerning less restrictive options
than any particular insight into the young offenders character"
(Jerry Miller, "Last One over the Wall", Ohio University
State Press, 1991.
34. While there will always be a need to
place the most serious and persistent of young offenders in some
form of institution to protect the public and address their developmental
needs, expanding the numbers of places and lowering the age range
of eligibility may be at the expense of funding a fully developed
range of options in the community, which could if properly resourced
make a significant impact on the reduction of crime through the
involvement of a range of appropriate providers and committed
The Bishop of Lincoln
The Church of England Board for Social Responsibility
Home Affairs Committee
10 March 1998
82 Not printed. Back