Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

14.  Memorandum submitted by Crime Concern

  1.  Crime Concern welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Committee's inquiry. Crime Concern is a social business which works with national and local statutory partners, local organisations and others to create safer communities. We achieve this through the delivery of local crime prevention projects in over 60 localities across England and Wales and through the provision of a specialist consultancy advisory service to local partnerships, public services and business. We are strategically funded through the Home Office.

  2.  Through our prevention services division, Crime Concern has extensive experience of delivering targeted services in deprived, high crime neighbourhoods in England and Wales for young people at risk of offending. Many of our projects work with young people of black and other ethnic minority (BME) origins.

  3.  We have drawn on this experience in our evidence and would be happy to provide further details of any of the initiatives referenced.


  4.  Crime Concern's experience is that:

    —  BME young people are accelerated into the criminal justice system (CJS) by their overrepresentation in risk groups, eg under achievement in education, poverty, mental health, inconsistent parenting etc;

    —  these risk factors are well documented and understood;

    —  there is increasing evidence about which targeted interventions can successfully address these factors eg youth inclusion projects (YIPs). However, such interventions are under-funded and ineffectively coordinated;

    —  the risk factors are exacerbated by two other factors:

    —  stubbornly resistant attitudes amongst some institutions and professionals towards young people from BME groups, such that the young people experience discrimination both before they enter the CJS and once they are in the system; and

    —  insufficient visibility and presence of a wide range of positive role models to reinforce cultural and behavioural norms.

    —  communities where there is a high level of social capital and community cohesion can offer a degree of protection and encouragement to at risk BME young people.

  5.  As much is already known about the causes of the overrepresentation and what can be done to address these, we recommend that more investment should be directed towards these complementary areas, for example:

    —  targeted early intervention programmes;

    —  mentoring;

    —  outreach;

    —  family/parenting support;

    —  programmes which encourage BME young people to volunteer; and

    —  programmes which build social capital and improve community cohesion.


  6.  Through our 60 or so community-based projects, we have over 18 years of supporting BME young people who have been identified as being at risk of offending. Our local projects encourage these young people away from crime and into positive lifestyles, education, employment and training.

  7.  The number of black young people in our projects varies from locality to locality and reflects the ethnic composition of the community the project is based in.[124] For example, some of our London projects work with a very high percentage of BMEs eg 70% plus, whereas projects in predominantly white neighbourhoods work with very low numbers of BMEs. Please note that these figures do not distinguish between black and other minority ethnicities. It is our experience that the overrepresentation is not limited to black young people.

  8.  Relevant early intervention programmes of ours include:

    —  Youth Inclusion Programmes (YIPs).[125]

    —  Junior YIPs.[126]

    —  Youth Inclusion and Support Panels.

    —  Restorative Justice (RJ) projects.


  9.  The disturbing and unacceptable statistics on the overrepresentation of black young people in the CJS are well documented. Figures obtained by SmartJustice[127] show that:

    —  Black British people make up 12% of the prison population but only 2% of the population as a whole.

    —  The British BME prison population grew by 124% from 1992-2002, while overall prison numbers grew by 55%.

  10.  That BMEs are more likely to be given harsher sentences is well evidenced. What is also recorded, but less discussed, is that BME young people are more likely to be the victims of crime. Figures from the British Crime Survey 2002-03 show that 46% of people of mixed racial origin had been victims of crime compared with 27% of white people.

  11.  We welcome actions the Government has taken to address this overrepresentation, eg the establishment of the CJS Race Unit in the Home Office and the introduction of YJB and Crown Prosecution Service strategies. However, more action is needed if the unacceptable overrepresentation is to be properly tackled.


  12.  The risk factors for offending behaviour are well known. They include a history of family disruption, poverty, unemployment and low educational attainment. BME young people are disproportionately represented in these risk groups. For example:

    —  African Caribbean pupils are four to six times more likely to be excluded than white pupils although no more likely to truant than other pupils.[128]

    —  70% of all minority ethnic people live in the 88 most deprived local authority

districts, compared with 40% of the general population.[129]

    —  Unemployment is considerably higher among BME communities. The employment rate for ethnic minority groups is 59%, compared with 74.9% for the GB population overall.[130]

    —  It is also a matter of continuing concern that looked-after-children in general (aged 10 plus) are three times more likely to be cautioned or convicted than children not in care,[131] and BME children are disproportionately represented within the looked-after population.


  13.  There is an increasing wealth of evidence about what works at diverting at risk young people from criminal and anti-social behaviour. Parenting programmes, targeted youth crime prevention programmes (eg YIPs) and mentoring programmes have all been seen to have a demonstrably positive impact on behaviour, and the number of local services should be increased substantially. Third sector organisations have been shown to be particularly good at reaching hard-to-reach BME young people. The good practice which is already taking place in pockets (and which is detailed below) should be shared and investment in them increased significantly.

(i)  YIPS

  14.  Significant success has been had diverting young people from crime through the YJB funded YIP. The programme, which works with at risk young people aged between 13 and 18, has achieved reductions of up to 65% in the arrest rates for the young people considered to be most at risk of crime in each locality.[132] Interventions include:

    —  Family link centres based in schools. Activities include language support.

    —  Skill centres aimed at providing excluded young people with training and qualifications.

    —  Environmental work, eg clean-up projects.

    —  Sports, artwork and other forms of constructive and educational recreation.

  15.  Regrettably, at present, there are less than a hundred of these projects scattered around the country. Even though more will be in place over this year, the scale of need is daunting—we are barely scratching the surface. We ought to be seeing at least a tenfold increase in provision, if not more, within two years.

(ii)  Positive Futures (PF)

  16.  PF is a national sports and arts based social inclusion programme, funded by the Home Office.[133] The programme aims to have a positive influence on participants' substance misuse, physical activity and offending behaviour and to provide pathways to education, training and employment.

  17.  Recent independent evaluation[134] of the programme found that:

    —  50% of project partners believe that PF makes a positive difference to drug use.

    —  76% and 68% of project partners believe that PF makes a positive difference to ASB and local crime rates respectively.

    —  736 young people returned to full-time education and 1,756 were doing better in school.[135]

(iii)  Mentoring

  18.  Programmes which successfully divert BME young people away from crime often include an element of mentoring. These programmes recruit positive adult role models for vulnerable young people who may not have a parent or carer able to fulfil this role. Well-run programmes have succeeded in helping disaffected young people to make positive changes in their lives. For example, Fusion, in Derby, offers black and Asian young people mentoring and support to help boost their opportunities and divert them from re-offending.

  19.  Independent evaluation of a mentoring scheme run by Crime Concern found that the programme had been especially successful at engaging BME mentors. Early intervention programmes like YIPs can help improve BME young people's opportunities, and providing BME young people with successful role models (who come from worlds other than sports or music) can help improve the young people's aspirations and ambitions.

  20.  We think there is much scope to look to the business community to provide "business" mentors for young adults leaving custodial settings, perhaps as part of early release / license conditions. However, this would require significant orchestration and investment to achieve critical mass and scale. Leaving it to local probation services, whose priorities are understandably elsewhere at the moment, may lead to a "still-born" initiative.

(iv)  Parental and family support

  21.  Ineffective parenting[136] may precipitate or exacerbate nuisance behaviours in children. The Government has recognised this and responded by recently announcing a series of initiatives designed to improve parenting. This support, if sensitively given, should be welcomed. Wherever possible the state should support parents to raise children themselves, rather than assume the responsibility itself. Looked-after-children are notoriously at risk of escalating offending behaviour and are significantly overrepresented later in life throughout the CJS. Parenting programmes can be extremely successful; the YJB Parenting Programme[137] recorded a 50% reduction in the number of offences committed by children of parents on the programme.

  22.  In fractured families, fathers are especially likely to be absent from children's lives. Research from the US shows that children of prisoners are six times more likely to end up in prison than their peers. We believe there is a major opportunity and need to target sustained help on children and families of those in prison. This could include foster support and/or family mentoring support (the latter engaging whole families).

  23.  Crime Concern's family support work dates back to the mid 1990s.[138] Practically all Crime Concern's 60 plus community programmes support parents and carers as an integral part of their delivery. Provision ranges from support from dedicated workers, to support commissioned from partner agencies and includes home visits, advocacy, small group sessions, healthy living sessions, smoking cessation, relaxation classes, and delivery of recognised parenting programmes.


  24.  Some projects specifically target at risk BME young people. SmartJustice, in a recent report, identified several groups which are steering BME young people (specifically black young people) away from the CJS at an early stage. These are largely voluntary groups set up by members of the black community. They help young black people deal with racism, raise their aspirations and self-esteem, provide positive role models and raise educational standards, training and skills. These schemes include:

(i)  From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation (FBMF)

  25.  FBMF was set up in response to parental concerns about the high number of young black boys being excluded from school. FBMF works with schools to reduce exclusions and uses educational, cultural and sporting activities to prevent young people from being drawn into crime or ASB. The programme also provides mentors and support for parents.

(ii)  National Black Boys Can Association

  26.  The Association was set up by prominent members of the black community concerned at levels of underachievement in school. Through a series of personal development programmes both during and outside school hours, the Association gives young black boys educational support, life skills, and the self-esteem and confidence to succeed.

(iii)  Right Track

  27.  Based in Bristol, the project is run by the Children's Society. It grew from a group originally set up to deal with young people's complaints about the over-use of Stop and Search. It works with children at every stage—from school exclusions through to young people in prison—and helps young people to identify the issues which contribute towards their behaviour eg drugs and bullying.


  28.  BME young people who are at risk of getting caught up in the CJS often live in the most fractured and uncohesive communities. Yet, evidence is emerging that a locality's resistance to crime and disorder can be undermined by an absence of social capital. Conversely, evidence suggests that it is this social capital or "social glue" which can have the most powerful impact on crime prevention. Work by academics such as Robert Putnam has shown how neighbourhoods with higher levels of "collective efficacy"[139] suffer significantly lower levels of crime.[140]

  29.  A recent report[141] by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concurs, concluding that much of antisocial behaviour is attributable to the breakdown of communities and the creation of an educational underachieving group of young people who have "disengaged themselves from everything".


  30.  Voluntary, community, faith and not-for-profit organisations are particularly well placed to help build this community cohesion. They can harness the credibility and relationships they enjoy at a local level in a way that the state[142] can rarely achieve. The work of the third sector is especially valuable in deprived areas where crime is highest but where perceptions of "the state" are often especially poor and where people may be reluctant to take up state services. Below are examples of initiatives where the third sector has worked to tackle some of the issues which propel BME young people into the CJS, while simultaneously improving social capital.

(i)  Tackling poor perceptions between young people and the police in Barnet

  31.  The poor perceptions which exist between some young people and some police are two sided. Crime Concern's Barnet Action For Youth project runs a young people/police liaison committee, providing an essential and innovative borough-wide mechanism through which constructive relationships are built between young people and the police. Adopting a youth led approach, the group identifies the issues young people believe are important and actively engages young people and the police in finding solutions to these.

(ii)  Breaking down racial tension in Southampton through football

  32.  Crime Concern's Southampton YIP has set up a five-a-side football league to tackle the racial tensions between the city's Somali, white, Bangladeshi and Indian young people. Out-reach work also plays a vital role, helping the project workers identify and defuse potential pressure points. Both the local police and the local community safety team report that tensions have reduced as the young people have got to know and respect each other, and bridges have been built between traditionally hostile communities as well as bonds within these communities.


  33.  RJ seeks to address both the concerns of the victim and the community with the need to deliver justice and reintegrate the offender into society. We recommend that the potential of RJ, as a means of resolving conflict involving BME young people without propelling them into the CJS, should be further explored. Used appropriately, RJ promotes self-responsibility in offenders and helps victims feel that offenders have acknowledged the harm of their behaviour.


  34.  Statistics suggest that BME young people experience the debilitating effects of racism both before they come into contact with the CJS and once they are in it.[143] Self-report surveys show that there is little difference in offending rates between different ethnic groups.[144] Yet:

    —  Pre-Sentence Reports[145] written about black people are of a poorer quality than those written about white people. 83% were satisfactory or better for white people compared with 75% for BME groups.[146]

    —  The arrest rate for black people is around three times that of white people. The arrest rate for Asian people is 12% higher than for white people.[147]

    —  Young black people are more likely to be refused bail than young white people. 11.6% of black and 11.4% of mixed race 10-17 year olds are remanded in custody compared with 7.6% of white 10-17 year olds.[148]

  35.  We are aware that various governments over the years have sought to address these problems, especially following the Macpherson Inquiry. However, the pattern of discrimination persists and, along with other risk factors, provides a toxic cocktail for overrepresentation.


  36.  We support Rod Morgan's (Chair of the Youth Justice Board) statement that:

    "The overrepresentation of BME groups in the youth justice system has historically caused concern among offenders and those working with them," and welcome his continued commitment to do more "to ensure equal treatment for all those who come into contact with the law."

  37.  Complementing this must be a drive to ensure that fewer BME young people come into contact with the CJS in the first place, and that accordingly support is increased for the early interventions programmes which have been proven to work.

April 2006

124   For example, the percentage of young people who come from BME backgrounds are approximately 80%, 75% and 70% respectively in our Tooting, Newham and Islington youth projects. Whereas our youth projects in Merthyr, Chester, and Sefton support no or very few young people from BME origin. We can provide figures for our other projects on request. Back

125   We are the largest provider of Youth Justice Board (YJB) YIPs. Back

126   We established the first Junior YIP "cluster programme" in England, reducing adverse outcomes among a core group of 8-12 year olds identified as being at high risk. Back

127   The Racial Justice Gap: Race and the Prison Population Briefing, SmartJustice, 2004. Back

128   Commission for Racial Equality. Back

129   Commission for Racial Equality. Back

130   Labour Force Survey, Department for Work and Pensions, 2004-05. Back

131   Outcome Indicators for Looked After Children, Department of Health, 2002. Back

132   "Evaluation of the Youth Inclusion Programme", Morgan Harris Burrows, Youth Justice Board, (July 2003). Back

133   It also receives some Football Foundation sponsorship. Back

134   Positive Futures impact report, end of season review, March 2006, Home Office. Back

135   Between March and September 2005. Back

136   Ineffective parenting can be due to prevalent cross-generational antisocial attitudes, mental health issues, or substance dependency. Back

137   "Positive Parenting; The National Evaluation of the YJB's Parenting Programme", Deborah Ghate and Marcello Ramella, (September 2002) Youth Justice Board. Back

138   In the 1990's, Crime Concern, with the Family Policy Centre and NACRO, published a joint study, Crime and the Family, arguing for a national initiative to improve parenting and provide support to stressed families in high crime neighbourhoods. Back

139   Where more neighbours know each other and are more likely to intervene in minor incivilities, where people take personal, family and societal responsibilities seriously, and where norms, values and understandings are shared. Back

140   These positive effects are found even having controlled for socio-economic factors and prior levels of crime, suggesting the effect is causal. Back

141   "Anti-social behaviour strategies: Finding a balance", Andrew Millie, Jessica Jacobson, Eraina McDonald and Mike Hough, JRF, 2005. Back

142   Be it national or local government or the police. Back

143   Goldson (2002) in his research on children remanded in secure and penal settings has stated that "racism is endemic throughout the youth justice system" and noted that as a result, black children are more likely to be remanded to custody and face the prospect of less favourable treatment and conditions. Back

144   Race and The Criminal Justice System an Overview to the complete statistics 2002-2003, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, School of Law, King's College London. Back

145   The reports written by probation officers to help magistrates and judges with their sentencing. Back

146   HMIP Inspectorate Report Towards Racial Equality, 2004. Back

147   Race and The Criminal Justice System an Overview to the complete statistics 2002-2003, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, School of Law, King's College London. Back

148   Race and The Criminal Justice System an Overview to the complete statistics 2002-2003, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, School of Law, King's College London. Back

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