Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

43.  Memorandum submitted by the Youth Justice Board (YJB)


  The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) welcomes the inquiry and the opportunity to submit written evidence. This note provides background on the role of the YJB, relevant research and data and an outline of the approach undertaken by the YJB. The YJB would be pleased to provide any further information that would be of assistance to the Committee.

  The role of the YJB is to oversee the youth justice system in England and Wales. We work to help prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to help ensure that custody for them is safe, secure, and addresses the causes of their offending behaviour. We base our work on research and evidence, wherever possible.

  Specifically, we:

    —  advise the Home Secretary on the operation of, and standards for, the youth justice system;

    —  monitor the performance of the youth justice system;

    —  purchase places for, and place, children and young people remanded or sentenced to custody;

    —  identify and promote effective practice;

    —  make grants to local authorities or other bodies to support the development of effective practice; and

    —  commission research and publish information.

  The YJB does not directly manage either secure establishments or local youth offending teams (YOTs).


  In order to help to understand whether there are significant differences in patterns of behaviour between different ethnic groups and whether there are differences in experiences of the youth justice system between different ethnic groups the YJB has developed data sources and commissioned research.

Youth Offending Team data

  The YJB collects data from YOTs detailing the number of offences and youth justice disposals by ethnicity.[229] This information is published annually by the YJB[230] and is used also to inform the collation of the Home Office's published statistics on race and the criminal justice system.

  We understand that key findings from the data provided by YOTs and included in the Race and Criminal Justice System publications has been set out in the submission to the Committee by the Home Office. To avoid unnecessary duplication, some key points only are highlighted here:

    —  Black young offenders accounted for 6% of offences within the youth justice system in 2004-05. In total Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups accounted for 11.9% of all youth justice offences recorded by YOTs. As well as general overrepresentation, Black young offenders are significantly overrepresented for certain offences, most notably robbery offences and drugs offences. These patterns are similar to those since 2001.

    —  Black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to White young offenders and Black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to White young offenders. These differences are found to be statistically significant.

    —  Whereas Black young offenders accounted for 6% of total offences in 2004-05 they received 11.6% of total custodial sentences.

Differences or discrimination?

  To establish a better understanding of how minority ethnic young people are treated at key stages of the youth justice system, compared to white young people, the YJB commissioned an independent research study.[231] The focus of the research was to investigate whether differences in outcomes related to ethnicity and gender were justifiable in terms of case-related or other legitimate factors, or whether there was evidence of discrimination. The challenge was to look at outcomes for cases that might be expected to have been treated alike.

  The conclusion of the research study showed that there were considerable variations in the extent of over- and under-representation of different ethnic groups in relation to the proportions in the populations served by the eight YOTs that were the focus of the study. Also, at various points in the decision making processes differences in outcome in the treatment of different ethnic groups and genders were identified. While many of the differences appeared to be accounted for by relevant variations in the characteristics of the cases on which decisions had been reached, this was not always established. That is to say, there were at various points of the system differences that were consistent with discriminatory treatment. In particular the study highlighted the following areas of concern:

    —  the higher rate of prosecution and conviction of mixed-race young males;

    —  the higher proportion of prosecutions involving Black young males;

    —  the greater proportion of Black and Asian males that had been remanded in custody before sentence, especially the greater proportion of Black males remanded whose proceedings had not resulted in a conviction;

    —  the slightly greater use of custody for Asian males;

    —  the greater use of the more restrictive community penalties for Asian and mixed-race males—especially those aged between 12 and 15;

    —  a much higher probability that a Black male would, if convicted in a Crown Court, receive a sentence of 12 months or more;

    —  a greater likelihood that Black and Asian males aged between 12 and 15 would be under supervision for longer than 12 months if they received one of the more restrictive type of community sentences;

    —  a slightly greater tendency for individuals from minority ethnic groups to have been committed to the Crown Court;

    —  a much greater proportion of mixed-race females who were prosecuted; and

    —  in general, a substantial variation in outcomes between YOT areas.

  The research presents a complex picture which did not point to a uniform pattern of discrimination against minority ethnic groups in general. While young Black males were identified in relation to certain areas of potential discrimination, as noted above, it was Asian males that were more likely to receive custodial sentences and mixed-race males that had a higher rate of prosecution and conviction in general.

  The Audit Commission in their review of the youth justice system in 2004[232] noted concern about the higher percentage of Black and mixed-race young people receiving secure remand decisions. Noting there may be several reasons for this and that the YJB monitored remand decisions by ethnic origin, the Audit Commission recommended that more information was fed back to YOTs who in turn should provide data on their own area to the court. In addition, it was recommended that YOTs should develop local policies on diversity among their own staff and aim to develop good practice in working with minority ethnic young people, especially those at high risk of custodial remands.

Levels of offending

  The fact that Black young people are overrepresented within the youth justice system does not simply indicate a higher level of offending in general. The relationship is complex including the potential areas of discrimination set out above.

  Self report offending surveys do not indicate clear patterns of evidence of higher levels of offending within different ethnic groups. While the YJB's commissioned MORI youth survey has indicated a higher level of self report offending by Black young people (see below), this has not been the general conclusion from other surveys and research, notably the analysis of the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003 (OCJS) undertaken by the Home Office.[233]

  The findings of the OCJS across age groups included:

    —  There are differences in the extent to which people from different ethnic groups self report their offending with White respondents and those of mixed ethnic origin most likely to report offending behaviour. The differences are not fully accounted for by the different age and sex profiles of the groups.

    —  The patterns may reflect differences across ethnic groups in their profile of factors known to be strongly associated with offending. For example young males are particularly likely to offend and there is a high proportion of young males in the mixed ethnic origin group.

    —  Asian and Black respondents had lower offending rates even after age was controlled for. The rates for serious offending in the last year showed a similar pattern with the exception that for this category Black respondents did not differ from the national average.

    —  The level of offending among White respondents was mainly driven by the pattern for young males. White males aged from 10 to 25 were far more likely to have committed an offence in the last year compared with young males in other ethnic groups (28% compared with 12% to 19% for other groups.) Fewer differences were apparent for older males and younger and older females, though those of Asian origin were consistently less likely to have offended.

    —  Overall, young Asian were less likely to commit public disturbances, graffiti and behaviour leading to neighbour complaints than their White counterparts. This was mainly driven by low levels among Asian females and 16 to 25 year olds. On the whole, Black groups and those of Mixed ethnic origin did not differ from White respondents.

    —  "Age standardised" rates for committing any anti-social or other problem behaviour show that all ethnic groups were similar to the average rate.

    —  The "multivariate model" showed that after various "risk" factors were taken into account, ethnic group was not independently predictive of participation in anti-social or other problem behaviour.

  Whereas the OCJS did not indicate higher offending levels, as noted above, self report surveys by MORI commissioned by the YJB have found that, among young people in mainstream schools, a higher proportion of Black pupils report having committed an offence compared with their White or Asian peers. Almost two in five back young people (37%) reported committing a crime in the last 12 month period compared with a quarter of white pupils (26%) and one in five Asian pupils (20%) according to the 2004 survey. This was a pattern also noted in the 2003 Youth Survey.

Risk Factors

  As noted, the relationship between offending levels and ethnicity is complex. Research indicates that in general a number of key social and personal risk factors are associated with the onset of offending and reoffending by children and young people. In order to inform an understanding of offending levels by different ethnic groups consideration needs to be given to the prevalence in different communities of the risk factors such as low income and poor housing, disengagement from education, availability of drugs, high turnover and lack of neighbourhood attachment. These factors may be more or less prominent in particular communities with different ethnic populations due to wider social trends. It is also the case that specific types of offences can be associated with particular social factors that can be more likely to be clustered in particular communities. For example, research on street crime commissioned by the YJB identified that one factor that helped to explain borough level variations in robbery offences was the rate of population change in an area (and the effect on levels of social control).

  Clearly a higher prevalence of the risk factors that are associated with offending and re-offending could explain disproportionate numbers of BME young people being arrested and entering the youth justice system. However this could not simply explain disproportionate outcomes at different stages within the youth justice system, including bail and sentencing decisions. As identified in the Differences or Discrimination research, case history and other factors do not appear to explain all differences in outcomes.



  The YJB is committed to working collaboratively with Criminal Justice and Children's Service partners to improve the youth justice system for all communities. This has included involvement with the Office for Criminal Justice Reform on a joined up approach to criminal justice including with the CJS race unit and the work towards the delivery of the PSA target for BME equal treatment in the CJS.

  As set out in the previous section, the evidence suggests that BME groups can receive different outcomes when they are brought into the youth justice system that cannot always be explained by differences in case characteristics. There are not simple patterns of disproportionate outcomes but it does point to potential discrimination.

  In response to these concerns the YJB established a new corporate objective to seek equal treatment at the local level for comparable offences by different ethnic groups. To support this approach YJB set a new key performance indicator for YOTs so that: All YOTs should have an action plan in place to ensure that any difference between the ethnic composition of offenders in all pre-court and post-court disposals and the ethnic composition of the local community is reduced year on year.[234]

  The work of the YJB is designed to support improvements in practice in the youth justice system at the local level. However, the YJB is clear that these improvements can only be achieved within the context of the make up of each local community and the resources and arrangements that exist in these communities. The YJB can assist by disseminating example of good practice and by prioritising action through our performance framework but can not directly manage the activity at a local level.

  In November 2004 the YJB began an audit and planning process with YOTs to help develop the new action plans. Nacro has supported the YJB on the development of YOT race action planning processes. The YJB had issued earlier guidance (YJB and Commission for Racial Equality Guidance for Youth Offending Teams on achieving equality 2001) however it was decided that further support and guidance was required following the receipt of the research evidence outlined above.

  The approach that YJB has promoted is intended to enable YOTS with their partner agencies to assess the local patterns of BME representation in the youth justice system and to develop and implement local plans to increase the proportionality of outcome and tackle any identified discrimination.

  Following the audit and planning process YOTs were asked to submit their action plans by 30 June 2005. The YJB is monitoring the implementation of the action plans and providing support to YOTs to develop their approaches. This will include YJB consultancy support to YOTs that are identified to be struggling to make progress and regional workshops planned for this year to showcase and disseminate emerging good practice across the youth justice system and with partner agencies.

Evaluation of YOT action plans

  YJB has undertaken some work to evaluate the race action plans prepared by YOTs.

  The audits and action plans included quantitative data on the number of offences, court remands and disposals at the local level by ethnic classification. The qualitative aspect looked at the following elements:

    —  Policy on race.

    —  Planning and protocols.

    —  Workforce (recruitment and selection, retention, appraisal and exit strategy).

    —  Training and development.

    —  Outreach and local networks.

    —  Service delivery.

    —  Monitoring—workforce and service delivery.

  The majority of YOTs reported some degree of disproportionality with regard to BME groups in the operation of their local youth justice system. It appears that many YOTs have used the quantitative data that they gathered through the audit process to determine areas that would require further research or closer ongoing monitoring.

  Other findings from the initial evaluation of the plans include:

    —  Over a third of YOTs specifically noted overrepresentation of Black/Black British in the youth justice system in their area compared to the general BME population. Close to 9% of YOTs noted significant underrepresentation of Asian/Asian British young people.

    —  53 YOTs reported that the number of BME young people committing offences was too small to allow significant conclusions to be drawn solely from the quantitative data.

    —  The most commonly cited offences for which BME groups were overrepresented were: robbery, breach of statutory order, drug offences, violence against the person, motoring offences. However, almost half of the YOTs identified a need to undertake further research into offences committed by BME groups.

    —  46 YOTs noted variations in court remands for BME populations compared to what might have been predicted by the local population. Of most concern were variations in the rates of remand to custody, remand to local authority accommodation and the use of conditional bail. 17 YOTs report that they had decided to review their remand practices and procedures including reviewing decisions where bail is refused.

    —  40 YOTs noted potentially significant variations in disposals based on ethnicity.

    —  37 YOTs said that they would develop or refine programmes in response to the quantitative data analysis.

    —  32 YOTs stated that they would now share data with court user groups, courts, CPS and/or police.

    —  63 YOTs identified the need to develop or enhance their links with local BME groups and networks.

    —  38 YOTs intended to improve gatekeeping around assessment and court reports to ensure that issues of race and diversity were being properly considered.

    —  22 YOTs would now be examining their programmes to ensure that they are relevant and accessible to BME young people.

    —  25 YOTs stated they intended to improve monitoring of youth justice national standards, compliance, attendance and completion rates with regards to race.

    —  37 YOTs would in future monitor victimisation and/or aggravated offending with regards to race.

  The analysis of the YOT race action plans shows mixed levels of development. In general race equality appears to be being given greater priority by YOTs. However, it is not yet clear to what extent equality issues are being uniformly prioritised at the local level and the extent to which work is integrated into mainstream YOT activity. As set out above, the YJB will be monitoring the implementation of the plans and changes in outcomes at the local level.

Targeted prevention programmes

  The YJB has been central to the development of new targeted prevention programmes aimed at working with children and young people identified at high risk of offending and committing anti-social behaviour. Following the 2004 Spending Review and the Budget announcement in 2005, additional funding has been made available to the YJB to expand these prevention programmes. This has led to the YJB introducing a new prevention funding formula for all YOTs. To ensure that the funding is effectively used guidance and performance management arrangements have been put in place. YOTs were made aware of the importance of considering the relevance of the prevention programmes to race equality in the YJB guidance noting that:

    "Preventive services must be accessible and deliver provision to groups of children and young people and their families who are disproportionately represented or who face particular challenges in the criminal justice system, such as looked-after children, those who are disabled, and those from Black and Minority Ethnic groups".

  Reviews of the plans that have been received by the YJB from YOTs for the use of the new funding stream indicate that while there are few schemes planned to work exclusively with BME young people (An example of a programme that has focused specifically on work with BME young people has been the Right Track programme in Bristol.) there is likely to be a significant amount of attention focused on race equality issues in particular through the delivery of new parenting programmes but also through Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs) and some Youth Inclusion Progammes (YIPs) (as YIPs are neighbourhood projects some locations have a particular emphasis on working with the BME community).


  As the Home Office publication Race Quality in Public Services (2005) identified the proportion of BME groups working in YOTs exceeds their proportion in the general population. However the YJB is seeking to ensure that the level of diversity remains strong and representation is proportionate at all levels within the system. Staff from BME groups represented 15.9% of all staff in 2004-05. This proportion is broadly reflected also at operational manager level where 15% of operational managers are from minority ethnic communities but not at the strategic manager level where representation is 6%.

  As part of the YJB's Human Resources and Learning Strategy new "gateway" qualifications in youth justice have been introduced to attract a more diverse entry into youth justice work and YJB is collaborating with the National Probation Service on a positive action leadership programme called Accelerate.

Secure Estate

  As the commissioner of secure estate places for children and young people remanded or sentenced to custody the YJB includes general requirements in relation to race equality in the service specifications with the providers of custody. The YJB commissions a managed service from the providers of custodial places and seeks to ensure contract requirements are met.

  The YJB Young Offender Institution (YOI) service specification requires that:

    "Governors should be committed to equality of opportunity and the elimination of discrimination on the basis of any relevant factors including, but not limited to, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, intellectual ability and disability".

  The Secure Children Home service specification includes the requirement that:

    "The provider will operate a young person equality opportunity monitoring system that ensures access to education, recreational facilities and higher levels of privilege are not restricted to any group or individual on the basis of any form of discrimination. By this means Providers will be able to demonstrate the effective implementation, review and monitoring of equal opportunity policy. The Provider should be able to demonstrate through policy documentation and the production of monitoring records, their capacity to use external independent arbitration in the event of a dispute".

  The privately operated Secure Training Centres specifications include requirements in relation to equal opportunities policy and regular monitoring of that policy and the provision of professional translators and other translated materials when necessary for young people.

  The Juvenile Awareness Staff Programme which has been introduced by the Prison Service and YJB for staff working specifically with juveniles in YOIs includes some consideration of diversity within the training modules.

  Details of a young person's ethnicity are provided to the YJB's placement team which is responsible for making the placements to the different custodial establishments. It has to be noted that there is limited flexibility available to the YJB over placement options because of pressures on the number of places. It is also the case that in making decisions about placements a range of factors need to be taken into account including the assessed needs of the young people remanded or sentenced to custody and their home location. Taking this into account, the YJB has sought to respond to requests from individual establishments to consider transfers when the ethnic makeup of the population in an individual establishment is considered an issue.

  The YJB is aware of the need to improve its monitoring of the secure estate in relation to ethnicity, including the use of physical restraints and forms of separation. The YJB is working with the custodial providers to improve data provision and analysis as part of wider work on improved data collection and consistency in data provision across the different custodial providers.

  The YJB has also sought to develop opportunities in general for children and young people in the secure estate to be able to seek support and assistance primarily through the introduction of a new advocacy programme.

Future research

  The YJB research strategy for 2006 to 2008 sets out plans for further research projects related to race equality to be commissioned. The first is a project to better identify the specific needs of BME young people and young women including exploring the practices of YOTs and the secure estate providers currently in response to those needs. This project is due to start this year. The second study planned is about the response of YOTs to working with children and young people who have committed racially motivated offences including exploring the nature and availability of tailored interventions and to investigate the approach of practitioners currently in working with this group of offenders. This study is due to start next year

  YJB is also involved in the longitudinal juvenile cohort study designed to explore the effectiveness of the youth justice system as a whole and to map the progress made by young people at different stages of the system. This will include exploring differences in outcomes for different groups of offenders including BME groups.

  In general, YJB research specifications include requirements for samples by ethnicity. However it is not always possible to include a sufficiently robust sample size.

  Finally, the YJB is aware that the Commission for Racial Equality and ESRC are planning a research project to explore further the causes behind the different experiences of the youth justice system by BME young people. The research project is intended to build on the analysis found in the YJB commissioned report Differences or discrimination. The YJB will be co-operating with the research study.

April 2006

229   The data provided by YOTs to the YJB is related to the number of incidents-offences and disposals-as opposed to the number of individuals within the system. One individual could be responsible for a number of recorded incidents in a single year. To address this the YJB is requiring the submission from this year of data related specifically to the number of individuals by ethnicity in order to measure effectively the performance indicator set for YOTs (see below). Back

230   Latest edition is YJB Youth Justice Annual Statistics 2004-05. Back

231   Differences or discrimination? Minority ethnic young people in the youth justice system. Martina Feilzer and Roger Hood in consultation with Marian FitzGerald and Andrew Roddam; Youth Justice Board 2004. Back

232   Audit Commission Youth Justice 2004 A review of the reformed youth justice system. Back

233   The age range for the OCJS 2003 was 10-65. The number of young people was boosted by half and in addition there was a booster sample for minority ethnic respondents. Back

234   Because it has been identified that BME communities can be disproportionately affected by the risk factors associated with juvenile offending the YJB has set YOTs a performance indicator that does not require an immediate or total elimination of disproportionate outcomes. According to local demography and other factors YOTS may differ in the rate at which proportionality can be achieved. Back

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