Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Letter to the Chairman submitted by Bob Ashford, Head of Youth Justice Strategy, Youth Justice Board (YJB)


  Further to the evidence I gave to your Committee on 23 June 2008 I would like to provide you with some additional information and clarification on several points that I raised. For ease of reference I have included the question number that my comments refer to.

National Protocols (Q320)

  I mentioned that YJB is working with the Department for Children, Schools and Families to develop good practice guidelines for local authorities.

Working alongside colleagues in both DCSF and the Joint Youth Justice Unit, YJB is developing national case responsibility protocols which will incorporate issues surrounding looked after children. In developing this work, YJB has been liaising with local authorities to identify examples of good practice and existing working agreements between youth offending teams (YOTs), children's services, police and residential homes to address, amongst others, the issues of managing challenging behaviour and out of area placements.

  YJB has also commissioned research into working protocols between YOTs and children's services and which will, therefore, incorporate children in the care system. The research will consider, amongst other issues, the impact of area agreements between local partners on reducing the criminalisation of looked after children. YJB is aware of a number of local authorities piloting restorative approaches in residential care homes based on the model of restorative justice in the youth justice system. Initial reports from residential homes in Salford in particular show promising results, with interim evaluations expected later in the year.

YJB funding of social workers in YOIs (Q334)

  I said at the evidence session that I believed that the date that current funding has been secured until is 2009-10. To clarify, the position is that the current funding arrangements are secured until the end of this financial year 2008-09, not 2009-10. However, there continues to be active discussions with DCSF and ADCS to seek future funding arrangements.

Numbers of looked after children in the youth justice system (Q338)

  The latest figures for 2006-07 show a total of 147,790 young people committed one or more offence resulting in a pre-court or court disposal. Data on looked after children who are in contact with the youth justice system is collected by YOTs on an individual basis. This information is then passed to children's services for their records. While the information has been returned to the YJB centrally, because of concerns about the overall quality and consistency of the data from YOTs the YJB has not used or published the data.

  Whilst there is no definitive data set for the proportion of young people in the youth justice system with looked-after status, the YJB is developing a new Management Information System (MIS), currently being piloted with ten YOTs, which will provide for information to be sent at case level. Whilst still in development, YJB hopes this new method of recording will enable data on the care status of children and young people known to YOTs to be collected from the financial period 2009-10 onwards.

  While the data needs to be treated with some caution as it is now relatively old and there were some concerns about the quality of the completion of the assessment profiles, research undertaken on the youth justice assessment tool, Asset, gives an indication of the current and previous care status of young people in the youth justice system on court orders. The relevant extract from the research report is copied below. Since this research was undertaken, new sections have been added to the Asset assessment tool to help clarify the young person's eligibility for services based on their care history and their current care status.

    2.2.3  Care history

    This section asks for information on both current and previous care experiences. Table 2.2.3 shows the frequency of answers for the whole sample. Eighteen percent of the sample had been accommodated by agreement with parents at some point and 10% were currently (or had previously been) placed on the child protection register.

Table 2.2.3: Care History
Accommodated by voluntary agreement with parents 2,7116%12% 77%5%
Subject to care order2,685 5%2%88% 4%
Remand to LA accommodation2,657 3%8%85% 4%
Name placed on the child protection register 2,6672%8% 77%13%
Any other contact with social services2,748 15%23%53% 9%
Social Services involvement with siblings 2,66710%12% 61%17%

  The research can be viewed on the YJB website; http://www.yjb.gov.uk/Publications/Resources/Downloads/ASSETReport2003.pdf

  The Committee may also be interested to know that the previous Department for Education and Skills collected Outcome Indicators for Looked-after Children, published annually between 2001 and 2006. This data included an indicator on offending behaviour of looked-after children (indicator PAF C18) and showed that throughout the period 2000-05, the percentage of children in care aged 10 and over who were cautioned or convicted of an offence during the previous year remained steady at approximately 10%, three times the national average for all children at that age. The data can be accessed at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/VOL/index.shtml

Risk assessment and suitable accommodation (Q377)

  There will always be risk assessments that need to be undertaken when accommodation is being sought for a young person, and where a young person has come out of custody they may have greater resettlement needs and pose higher risks. These risks need to be managed and supported housing providers need to consider a range of factors, for example whether the young person will be able to address their needs through the housing being considered and whether there are any risks that would need to be managed in terms of other young people who are already being accommodated at the site.

  YOTs can work with local authorities and housing providers to improve their understanding of the needs of young people. A good example of this can be found in Wiltshire, where the YOT helped a supported housing provider improve its eviction protocols to prevent young people being evicted without any follow-on accommodation to go to.

  In terms of the specific query, the situation may be due to the greater accessibility of bed and breakfasts and the general shortage of suitable accommodation (due in part to decreased numbers of supported housing and funding difficulties).

  I would be happy to provide the Committee with further details about any aspect of our work that may be helpful.

July 2008

22   DK = Don't know. Back

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