Memorandum submitted by the Youth Justice Board


Role of the YJB

 

The role of the YJB is to oversee the youth justice system in England and Wales. It works to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to ensure that custody for them is safe, secure, and addresses the causes of their offending behaviour. The statutory responsibilities of the YJB include:

advising Ministers on the operation of, and standards for, the youth justice system

monitoring the performance of the youth justice system

purchasing places for, and placing, children and young people remanded or sentenced to custody

identifying and promoting effective practice

making grants to local authorities and other bodies to support the development of effective practice

commissioning research and publishing information.

While the YJB is responsible for overseeing the performance of youth justice services including multi-agency YOTs and secure estate providers it does not directly manage any of the services.

 

As part of its overarching objectives to prevent offending and reduce reoffending the YJB works with partners to help secure access to employment, education and training for young people in the youth justice system, both in the community as well as for those making the transition from custody back into the community. The YJB also provides clear specifications for the delivery of education and training programmes within the secure estate.

Profile of NEETs and links with the criminal justice system

1. The youth justice cohort has lower levels of engagement in education training and employment than the general population of young people. Around one third are not in any form of ETE at the end of their sentence. Within this cohort ETE engagement for young people on custodial sentences is on average 15% lower than their peers on community orders. Information gathered from Youth Offending Team (YOT) assessments of young people clearly indicates that there are established links between the educational achievement, inclusion and ability of young people in the youth justice system and their risk of offending and re-offending. In an audit of young people involved with YOTs (YJB 2003):

25% SEN (60% with statements)

42% currently or previously experienced school exclusion

41% regularly truanting

42% under achieving at school

80% of the custodial cohort do not have the skills for employment

Furthermore, a study in the North East with the region's YOTs showed that over 40% of young offenders also have an identifiable learning disability or difficulties (2006).

2. Engagement in education, training and employment (ETE) is proven to reduce the risk of offending and re-offending. Therefore, closer working between education and training providers and youth justice services on engaging young people is likely to reduce offending behaviour.

 

3. The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) report, Increasing participation: understanding young people who do not participate in education or training at 16 or 17, provides a useful summary of the characteristics, attitudes and needs of young people who do not participate in education or training. Commissioned by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in 2005, the study found that young people not in education, employment or training ('NEETs') are not a uniform group and can include young people with a range of risks and needs. The study did identify several characteristics which were common among NEETs however, including education and learning difficulties, personal issues and 'structural factors' such as poor financial situations, stagnant labour markets and a culture of disengagement. Many of the risk factors that place young people at risk of becoming NEET are therefore similar to those at put young people at risk of entering the criminal justice system.

4. The research also found that within the wider NEET cohort, young people classified as 'sustained NEET,' that is to say, those who are least likely to return to education or training and have the lowest educational attainment, were at the highest risk of entering the criminal justice system and made up a significant proportion of the NEET youth justice cohort.

5. The association between engagement in education, training and employment (ETE) and offending behaviour is therefore widely recognised. YJB data for 2007/08 found that 71.1%[1] of young offenders supervised by YOTs were engaged in suitable education, training or employment, compared with the national average of around 90% of 16-18 year olds.

6. Ensuring young people are fully engaged with education and training and able to develop the skills needed to lead positive lifestyles are therefore key to achieving the YJB's strategic objectives of preventing offending and reducing reoffending.

Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the 'NEET' category

7. The YJB believes that assessment is key to identifying young people at risk of becoming NEET. The primary methods for assessing the needs of young people at risk of involvement in offending, and young people who have offended, are the Onset and Asset assessment tools respectively.

8. Onset is a referral and assessment framework that identifies if a young person would benefit from early intervention, and determines the risk factors that should be reduced and the protective factors that should be enhanced in order to prevent the young person from offending. Onset promotes the YJB's prevention strategy and provides information which may be used in selecting appropriate interventions for those identified as needing early intervention.

9. Asset is a structured assessment tool used by YOTs in England and Wales on all young people who have offended and come into contact with the criminal justice system. It aims to identify the factors or circumstances in a young person's life which may have contributed to their offending behaviour and highlights particular risks, needs or difficulties which may need to be addressed.

10. The ETE needs of children and young people at risk of entering, and in contact with, the youth justice system are therefore primarily assessed using the Onset and Asset tools which are used to inform the planning of interventions and support to address these needs.

11. In terms of early identification, the YJB uses targeted evidence-based prevention programmes such as Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs) and Youth Inclusion Programmes (YIPs), delivered by YOTs, to help prevent young people entering the youth justice system and to help support their engagement with mainstream education. These programmes are based on a risk and protective factor model that recognises poor educational attendance and attainment as particularly strong risk factors related to a raised likelihood of offending.

 

12. For example YIPs are tailor-made early prevention programmes for 8 to 17-year-olds who are at high risk of involvement in crime or anti-social behaviour. Young people on the YIP are identified through a number of different agencies, including the YOT, police, children and family services, local education authorities or schools, neighbourhood wardens and anti-social behaviour teams. Each project contributes to the National Indicator to reduce the number of first time entrants into the criminal justice system within a particular YOT area. To do so, YIPs have a number of key aims including to increase access for engaged young people to mainstream and specialist services, especially in relation to education, training and employment.

 

13. Safer School Partnerships (SSPs) are formal agreements between schools and police to work together to keep young people safe, reduce crime and the fear of crime, and improve behaviour in schools and the local communities. In addition to ensuring the safety of pupils, staff and the school site, SSP police officers or police community support officers participate in the early identification of, and support and challenge for, pupils involved in or at risk of offending. SSP officers also assist in improving standards of behaviour and attendance levels in schools thereby helping to reducing the need for pupil exclusions.

 

14. In addition, Targeted Youth Support (TYS) aims to ensure that the needs of vulnerable young people are identified early and are met by agencies working together effectively, in ways that are shaped by the views and experiences of young people themselves. TYS should dovetail with, and where necessary complement, the statutory and specialist provision that young people may already be receiving. TYS should help young people settle back into universal settings as quickly as possible, avoinding a spiralling of need.

 

Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming NEET and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistent NEET

15. As stated in paragraph 4 above, young people in contact with the youth justice system often fall into the 'sustained NEET' category and are least likely to be aware of the education and training options available to them or to seek advice or guidance from individuals outside their immediate family or close peer group. Engaging these young people in appropriate services and programmes is therefore vital to reducing their likelihood of remaining persistent NEET or becoming involved in further offending behaviour.

16. The YJB has developed and supported the 'Keeping Young People Engaged' (KYPE) initiative which provides resources to enhance the existing capabilities of YOTs to engage young offenders in suitable ETE. Funded since 2003, KYPE, started as a joint project with the Connexions service (this partnership ended in 2008 when Connexions was devolved to Local Authorities) and initially aimed to engage young people subject to more rigorous sentences including Detention and Training Orders (DTOs) and Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (ISSP) by working with providers to secure suitable placements, prepare individuals for the psychological and social aspects of engagement and provide a combination of one-on-one support, advice and guidance.

17. The 2007 KYPE evaluation found that while the overall impact of the initiative on levels of long-term engagement were relatively small, KYPE services were found to have a positive impact on the young person's confidence, attitude and awareness of ETE options, and the majority of young people interviewed for the study felt that being engaged would help to keep them out of trouble in the long term. Since 2006/07 KYPE has been rolled out more widely; 7m funding has been secured for 2009/10 and each YOT now employs at least one dedicated KYPE worker.

18. YOT data provided to the YJB shows that since 2006/07 there has been improvements in ETE engagement of young people in the youth justice system including the harder-to-reach custodial cohort of young people. The YJB believes that KYPE has directly contributed to this progress. This has happened at a time when the national NEET rate has remained broadly static.

19. In line with commitments in the Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP) to improve the education of young people in custody, the YJB welcomes the statutory footing that custodial education has been placed on by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. For the small proportion of young people who receive a custodial sentence, custody provides an opportunity to carry out a thorough educational assessment and begin to address the deficits that young people may have developed. It is therefore important that the services delivered in custody are tailored to effectively meet needs; information sharing between relevant partners is key to ensuring young people receive the support they need during their time in custody. The YJB therefore welcomes the strengthened literacy and numeracy assessment requirements and measures to meet the needs of young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in custody.

20. Young people who re-enter the community after a period in custody are often at higher risk of becoming NEET. Re-engagement with mainstream services post custody is therefore a key part of the YJB's ongoing work to reduce reoffending and ensure young people can access the range of services they need.

21. The YJB has developed and implemented a series of initiatives to improve the resettlement of young people back into the community following a custodial sentence. Following commitments in YCAP to expand resettlement provision, the YJB launched the Integrated Resettlement Support (IRS) framework in July 2009. Building on the lessons learnt from operating its predecessor, the Resettlement and Aftercare Programme (RAP) for a number of years, IRS is designed to assist with the transition from custody back into the community and to work with partners to ensure appropriate services are offered to young people.

22. During 2009, the YJB has also been working with partners to develop two regionally-led resettlement consortia pilots, in the North West and South West of England, which are working to strengthen links between the secure estate, YOTs and local authorities to improve resettlement outcomes for young people, in particular by improving the provision and access to mainstream and specialist services. Work to expand and improve resettlement initiatives is integrated into the All Wales Youth Offending Strategy Delivery Plan 2009-11 which all partners in Wales are signed up to. There is also ongoing work to identify and improve accommodation services and support for young people leaving custody.

23. The YJB, in partnership with the London Criminal Justice Board, the London Development Agency and the Greater London Authority, has been involved in further initiatives to improve resettlement outcomes for young people, including the development of a 30-bed enhanced resettlement unit, known as the Heron unit, within HMYOI Feltham. The Heron unit aims to break the cycle of reoffending by delivering an enhanced resettlement programme to young people from the six Diamond London Boroughs (Croydon, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Southwark). A 48-bed enhanced support unit, known as the Keppel unit, has also opened at HMYOI Wetherby; the Keppel unit provides additional support and services, including care planning to prepare young people for their integration back into standard care or the community, for young people who struggle to engage with the normal YOI regime. This can be for a variety of reasons, including disengagement with education.

24. Improving resettlement services is therefore a key part of the YJB's work to achieve its strategic objective of reducing youth reoffending. The YJB welcomes the 6m additional funding available over the next two years to realise the above resettlement initiatives and would welcome the continuation of this provision.

25. The provision of effective Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) services in custody is essential to improving resettlement outcomes. The ability to allocate young people to the appropriate courses whilst in custody and signpost them to the best post custodial options is dependant on having skilled IAG workers in custodial establishments. Unfortunately, since the transfer of responsibility for commissioning and funding IAG services to local authorities in 2008, it is the YJB's concern that the provision of this service has diminished. This is being compounded by a withdrawal of IAG funding for the IAG element of the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) as responsibility for funding and commissioning offender learning transfers from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities in April 2010.

26. The concern it that the combined effect of these two transitions is having a negative impact on service delivery which is ultimately damaging resettlement outcomes. The YJB is in discussion with the Joint Youth Justice Unit, DCSF, the LGA and the LSC in an effort to resolve the situation and better manage these transitions.

27. Other programmes and initiatives which help to keep young people engaged in ETE include: the DCSF-developed Targeted Youth Support programme; the Education Maintenance Allowance available to young people aged 16-19 in full-time education; and the Government's 'September Guarantee' policy which entitles all young people to a suitable placement in learning. The education requirement as part of the new Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) will also help to keep young people engaged or to re-engage them.

The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

28. The YJB is continuing to work with partners to maximise young people's engagement and believes the following developments would help to achieve this;

29. Improved knowledge of the 'September Guarantee' policy through better communication; anecdotal evidence reported to the YJB by practitioners suggests that education providers are often reluctant to accept young people with a history of offending behaviour and that it can be extremely challenging to secure a suitable place in education for these young people. The YJB believes increased awareness of the {statutory} duty on schools, colleges and other education providers under the September Guarantee may help to improve co-operation and increase the number of young people who can secure a suitable placement. The YJB would also support the introduction of an escalation process for YOTs and youth justice stakeholders to challenge those providers who do not adequately fulfil their obligations under the Guarantee.

30. Positive working relationships between YOTs and further education providers; strategies for improving links between YOTs and further education (FE) institutions are vital to ensure that young people who have offended are given the same options and opportunities as other young people. The YJB is working closely with DCSF, REACT and LSC/YPLA to improve the access to FE. The Foundation Learning Tier qualification, aimed at entry level young people, currently being piloted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority should provide a more inclusive access route for young people from the youth justice system moving into FE. The YJB supports the national rollout of this qualification, or a similar alternative, subject to education providers, local authorities and employers recognising its value.

31. Increased alternative education provision; a variety of pre-and post-16 education provision solutions are needed to keep young people engaged or to re-engage them in ETE. This includes sufficient provision of college places, vocational courses and flexible work-based learning. It is particularly important for education provision to reflect the changing needs and priorities of the post-16 age group.

The likely impact of raising the participation age on strategies for addressing the needs of young people not in education, employment or training

32. The YJB welcomes continued incentives for young people to remain in full time education post 16 through Education Maintenance Allowances and other benefits. It is also vital that there is sufficient provision of alternative education options available to those young people who would benefit from non-academic style learning.

33. Implementation of the raised participation age by 2013 may also require new strategies for identifying and supporting young people who may continue to 'slip through the cracks.' The YJB believes the statutory requirement to stay in ETE until the age of 18 needs to be met by good quality Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) services to encourage young people to do so, and to identify those young people who are more likely to be at risk of becoming disengaged. Improved quality assessments will help to achieve this, and the YJB would also welcome measures to prepare teachers and other education professionals for the forthcoming changes through continued workforce development. Indeed, raising the participation age presents a good opportunity to highlight the needs of those young people who will continue to experience problems in engaging with appropriate ETE services, such as those with SEN, excluded young people and individuals who have offended. The YJB will continue to work with partners to ensure vulnerable and at-risk young people can access the range of services they need to lead a positive lifestyle.

 

The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for 16-18 year olds

34. The transfer of responsibility for education in custody to Local Authorities in 2010 presents a good opportunity to further integrate custodial services into mainstream provision. The YJB welcomes the expansion of alternative education options in recent years such as the introduction of diplomas and focus on apprenticeships. However it is keen to ensure that there are sufficient places available and that young people who have offended are not disadvantaged in the competition for suitable courses through lack of access to appropriate services. The YJB also believes that the success of alternative provision requires buy-in from both the FE sector and employers as a whole to ensure that these options do not become stigmatised.

35. The YJB also believes there is an expanded role for employers in working to ensure young people remain engaged and would like to see a reduction in the number of 'jobs without training' and a move to increase the provision of jobs with level 2 qualifications.

36. The YJB has been working with a 'Pan London PRU initiative which aims to develop a new curriculum which ensures young people spending time in PRU's receive the additional support, including IAG, needed to achieve. It also aims to drive up the quality of the overall education provision and ensure young people are re-integrated back into schools at the earliest opportunity.

37. Priority considerations for young people in the youth justice system:

The YJB welcomes the opportunities the new 14-19 curriculum will provide, especially for the non-academic learner. The benefits of the 16 -19 curriculum, commissioned through local authorities are likely to be significant for those young people with complex needs who often come under the supervision of the youth justice system.

 

Better vocational links between education and training providers and employers will lead to an increase in engagement with training programmes and employment and ultimately a reduction in the risk factors associated with offending.

 

Increasing the availability and access to courses for 16-18 year olds which provide flexible entry to cater for those at entry and pre-entry levels.

 

The YJB believes there should be greater requirements on education providers, including schools, to maintain contact with young people upon entering, and during their time in custody. It is important that education providers pass vital information about general education performance, special educational needs (SEN) statements and other statements of need onto custodial establishments when a young person is sentenced. It is equally important that as part of an effective resettlement process, schools receive equivalent information back upon a young person's release including measures of progress. The YJB welcome the 2006 regulations setting out expectations on schools not to take children who have been sentenced to short term custodial sentences (resulting in an eight week absence) off their school rolls.However, raising this threshold to twelve weeks would provide additional assurance to a wider group of young people in custody since the average length of time spent in custody is around three months

 

It is especially important for IAG partners to be joined up to provide career information and facilitate personal choice. This is especially significant where young people are being taught in settings other than the school e.g. custody, PRUs and community based provision.

December 2009



[1] Youth Justice Annual Workload Data 2007/08