The Government's Approach to Crime Prevention - Home Affairs Committee Contents

2  Preventing youth criminality


16.  Those who engage in anti-social or criminal behaviour at a young age are more likely to become serious and persistent offenders,[29] therefore preventing youth offending is key to crime reduction. In its written submission to our inquiry, the Government outlined its approach to preventing youth criminality:

Better prevention to tackle problems before they become serious or entrenched; more non-negotiable support to address the underlying causes of poor behaviour; and tough enforcement where behaviour is unacceptable.[30]


17.  Addressing the underlying causes of behaviour demands an understanding of the factors which increase the likelihood of offending. Such risk factors can by established by studying offender backgrounds. Memoranda from the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and the national youth charity Catch 22 cited virtually identical lists, which have been identified by reviewing more than 30 years of research in the United Kingdom, the United States and other western countries. They can be grouped as follows:

Table 1: Risk factors influencing likelihood of offending[31]
Family risk factors School risk factors Community risk factors Individual risk factors
Poor parental supervision and discipline Low achievement beginning in primary school Disadvantaged neighbourhood Hyperactivity and impulsivity
Family history of problem behaviours Aggressive behaviour in school (bullying) Community disorganisation and neglect Alienation and lack of social commitment
Family conflictLack of commitment to school, including truancy Availability of drugs Early involvement in crime and substance misuse
Parental involvement in /attitudes condoning problem behaviour Lack of engagement High turnover and lack of neighbourhood attachment Friendships with peers involved in crime
Low income and poor housing Poor mental health

A number of protective factors which can lessen the likelihood of offending have also been identified. These include the opportunity for pro-social involvement at school, school rewards for pro-social involvement, family attachment, opportunities for pro-social involvement in the family and family rewards for pro-social involvement.[32] According to a 2005 report by the YJB:

The relationship between risk and protective factors, and the precise ways in which they interrelate is uncertain. It is, nevertheless, clear that risk factors cluster together in the lives of the most disadvantaged children; and the chances that they will become anti-social and criminally active increases as the number of risk factors increases. [33]

18.  The evidence given to our inquiry corroborated these findings. Asked about the root causes of crime, witnesses tended to emphasise poverty, family neglect, past victimisation and feeling unsafe, under-achievement, a lack of positive role models and intergenerational cycles of offending.[34] The Governor of Reading Young Offenders Institution, Pauline Bryant, agreed this reflected the typical experience of inmates.[35] The Chief Executive of Nacro, Paul McDowell, highlighted the interconnected nature of these factors from the crime reduction charity's experience of working with offenders over the years:

Many different elements connected to social deprivation are probably among the biggest causes. For instance, I refer to young people who are excluded from school, do not have a sound education or level of attainment, are unable to get employment and have not had great role models in their family and upbringing, so there is a broad lack of opportunity which leads them into crime.[36]

Breaking the cycle of offending is crucial. Some 7% of children experience the imprisonment of a parent during their school years.[37] Bob Ashford, Head of Youth Justice Strategy at the YJB, said that in such circumstances it is "fairly likely" that the young person will go on to start offending themselves.[38] It is not just within families that role models are important; User Voice emphasised the importance of having visible success stories in the community to present an attractive alternative to a criminal lifestyle.[39]

19.  There was some slight disagreement about the relative importance of family relationships and poverty as risk factors for criminal behaviour. The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and Graham Allen MP, who have co-authored a book on the subject for the Centre for Social Justice, argued that tackling Britain's "peculiarly high level of family breakdown"[40] is key to reducing crime. They write in their book that:

Successive governments have followed a short-term agenda, narrowly focusing on the economic rather than on the real-life influences on dysfunctional families. What this document shows is that child poverty and income are only part of the picture ... Our parents are the chief sculptors of our futures.[41]

They also cite research from the US carried out by Ray Arthur, who concluded that:

Children from deprived backgrounds who avoided a criminal record had tended to enjoy good parental care and supervision in a less crowded home. The statistical connection between socioeconomic status and children's early offending behaviour was entirely mediated by family management practices.[42]

20.  Other witnesses, while not denying the significance of the family, argued that the underlying driver of crime is in fact poverty. The Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Fiona Blacke, said:

If you had asked me the questions about what were the main causes of crime and disorder, I probably would have started with poverty.[43]

Barnardo's drew our attention to interviews with teenagers serving Detention and Training Orders carried out for their 2008 publication Locking Up or Giving Up, in which most children were from families that struggled financially, and those involved in burglary and robbery said that they did so to "get money".[44]

21.  There is a debate about the extent to which offending can be predicted from risk factors. On the one hand, young people who have been exposed to the greatest risk are between five and 20 times more likely to become serious and violent offenders than those who have not.[45] The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP drew our attention to the results of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which tracked the fortunes of families in New Zealand: by the age of 21 the boys identified as being "at-risk" had two and a half times as many criminal convictions as the group deemed not to be at-risk.[46] Louise Casey informed us that around 90% of teenagers who are recidivist criminals had conduct disorder as children.[47]

22.  However, John Drew, Chief Executive of the YJB, was clear that it is not possible to predict from birth whether or not someone is going to commit a criminal offence.[48] According to Professor Laycock, for the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, around 33% of adult males born in 1953 had a criminal conviction by the age of 46, significantly more than the number of males who grow up in poverty or in dysfunctional families.[49] In a recent paper the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Richard Garside, noted the high error rate in predicting offenders from known risk factors: in one particular study, around nine out of ten individuals identified as a significant homicide risk in Pittsburgh did not go on to commit a homicide.[50] He argues that risk factor analysis tends to be much better at explaining links and associations after the event than predicting future behaviour and suggests that the current focus on the family may be politically expedient, citing fellow academic John Pitt:

In a time when politicians are unwilling to countenance robust social and economic intervention to counter social problems, and eager to demonstrate that they are 'tough on crime', an analysis which identifies poor child-rearing practices and weak parental control as the fundamental problem, and a strategy which targets families and classroom regimes and their capacity to inculcate self-control in unruly and disruptive children ... is a political godsend.[51]

23.  This note of caution about predictions mirrored a strong view expressed by the former offenders with whom we spoke, that it is not possible to generalise too much about why people commit crime and that this can in fact impede policy-making. For example, not all of them came from broken homes or felt neglected by their parents. Some did well at school and were employed at the time of offending.[52]

24.  The prevailing understanding of the root causes of criminal behaviour is informed by many years of international research. We were struck by a far greater cross-party consensus about the causes of criminality than in the past, which bodes well for consistent policy-making. Most witnesses outlined a set of risk factors for offending which centred on family dysfunction, school and community under-achievement and poverty. The evidence suggests that these factors cluster in the lives of the most deprived children, and that these children are significantly more likely to offend than their counterparts who are not at-risk. The impact of family relationships is crucial: good parental care is a strong protective factor and should therefore constitute a key policy objective. However, it is important that governments do not use measures to promote parenting or support "problem" families to mask the need to do more to reduce poverty in communities.

25.  The ability to identify those most at-risk of offending is an important tool in planning and implementing preventative interventions. However, it is important not to place too much emphasis on this: predicting offending is by no means an exact science. Many individuals from deprived backgrounds choose not to commit crime; conversely, many individuals who enjoyed a privileged upbringing do. As many as 33% of males born in 1953 had a criminal conviction by the age of 46. Our discussions with former offenders warned us against making assumptions about the causes of offending behaviour: they did not all come from broken homes or do poorly in school. Tackling these risk factors, whilst a laudable aim in itself, should not form the entire basis of crime prevention strategies.


26.  Building on this understanding of risk factors, the Government has stated it is committed to:

  • Investing heavily in services for families with very young children, including Sure Start Children's Centres and extending Family Nurse Partnerships;
  • Improving the quality, access and safety of youth provision, including additional funding for targeted provision through Positive Activities for Young People and funding new and refurbished youth facilities, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights;
  • Providing targeted parenting provision and expanding the use of Family Intervention Projects for the most challenging families;
  • Encouraging use of multi-agency street patrols and police operations to engage and remove young people on the cusp of offending to a place of safety, building on a network of Safer Schools Partnerships and Youth Inclusion Projects, which provide targeted support; and
  • Intensifying action to tackle anti-social behaviour.[53]

Early intervention with young children and their parents

27.  The Government has attempted to improve the outcomes for young children through the launch of Sure Start Centres in 1998 to deliver childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development. This approach to family support drew praise from our witnesses[54], including the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Chris Huhne MP and voluntary sector organisations like Barnardo's:

One of the major accomplishments of the current Government has been to embed into public policy the notion that government has a legitimate role in promoting positive parenting.[55]

In evidence to our colleagues on the Children, Schools and Family Committee on 14 December 2009, Barnardo's Chief Executive, Martin Narey, elaborated:

When people ... ask me about what we should be doing in the field of crime prevention, I do not talk about Youth Justice Board schemes, I say, "Go and see Sure Start", because that avenue towards a new start in life and towards a child doing well educationally and what that means for aspirations, has dramatic potential.[56]

Sure Start includes an element of health visiting. Research in the US has found that the most promising achievements in preventing criminality are to be found in home visitation programmes where nurses, health visitors or social workers support and train parents of young children.[57]

28.  However, the Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, drew attention to a criticism levelled at Sure Start, that the support it offers is not reaching the right people.[58] The programme was originally limited to deprived areas, although it was open to all parents living in the catchment area regardless of circumstance. With the move to Sure Start Children's Centres, the programme has been extended to other geographical areas. Barnardo's also argues for a greater focus on tailored provision for hard to reach families who fail to engage with traditional parenting support, particularly parents in the secure estate, young fathers and Black and Minority Ethnic fathers.[59]

29.  The Government is also piloting Family Nurse Partnerships for a small number of families, based on a 30-year-old US model of intensive, nurse-led home visiting for vulnerable, first time, young parents shown to improve antenatal health, enhance child development and school readiness, reduce child neglect and improve father involvement. However, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and Graham Allen MP argue that the Government's approach to intensive family support does not go far enough in terms of the numbers it covers and the level of intervention:

Not many are receiving what I would term early intervention. There are some fantastic experiments, as it were, going on... There is lots of good work but it is sporadic.[60]

Alan Given, Head of the Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership, also warned that:

Early intervention is different to early reaction. People often say, "What we will do is bring this programme much earlier into somebody's offending behaviour" or, "We will deal with them as soon as it happens rather than wait three months." That is reacting early to the same problem.[61]

30.  The One Nottingham partnership, of which Graham Allen MP is Chair, is piloting an approach which includes a range of measures for children aged 0-18, including training in empathy and emotional competence, drug and alcohol education, and housing, parenting skills and health care for teenage mothers.[62] Such a strategy was supported by evidence to us from Barnardo's, suggesting that a wider range of services should be available for parents to access at a later stage, including during the transition from primary to secondary education and during adolescence.[63]

31.  The Government's approach in relation to supporting young children and their parents, principally through Sure Start, drew the most praise during our inquiry. Witnesses agreed that improving outcomes for young children and bolstering parenting support was extremely likely to be effective in long-term prevention. Evidence suggests that health visiting is a particularly key component. In order to reap the maximum benefits, schemes must ensure that support is reaching the most deprived families, and that parenting support is available throughout a child's life, not just in the early years. The Government should pay close attention to the package of early intervention measures being put into practice by One Nottingham, with a view to encouraging their implementation elsewhere, if demonstrated to be successful.

Early reaction


32.  The effects of early intervention will take at least a generation to be realised. In the meantime, the Government aims to concentrate on low-level offending and anti-social behaviour with a view to nipping problem behaviour in the bud. Longitudinal analysis of the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey between 2003 and 2006 has shown that about a quarter of 10-25 year olds who committed anti-social behaviour or used drugs in the first year of the study went on to offend.[64] But is the drive to reduce anti-social behaviour by young people working? Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to play a major role in this regard. The Minister of State responsible for crime and policing, the Rt Hon David Hanson MP, told us that:

93% of individuals who receive an ASBO after their third criminal justice intervention do not get involved in the two years following that intervention in criminal activity again. ASB interventions themselves (including ASBOs) are effective.[65]

33.  However, evidence from Barnardo's highlighted recent research from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime—another longitudinal study, involving 4,380 children—which concluded that the use of compulsory measures, such as ASBOs, in the early stages of offending, tends to "label and stigmatise young people", inhibiting the normal process of 'growing out' of offending that would happen otherwise.[66] The Youth Justice Board provided the following graph which shows the tail-off in offending past the ages of 18 for males and 15 for females:

Figure 1: Offenders as a percentage of the population by age, 2006, England and Wales[67]

34.   Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman, representing the Association of Chief Police Officers, stressed the need to balance enforcement with support:

If you just took ASBOs on their own, I would probably not be supportive of them as a tool. But I think they are a really important part of a range of different interventions … The point about an ASBO is that it should be part of a long-term engagement with somebody and if the other approaches do not work then the anti-social behaviour order should be the way of intervening.[68]

As of May 2004 magistrates may attach an Individual Support Order to an ASBO made against young people aged between 10 and 17 years old which impose positive conditions on the young person that are designed to tackle the underlying causes of their anti-social behaviour. It is therefore disturbing to note that only 11% of ASBOs handed down to under-18s in 2007 had an Individual Support Order attached.[69]

35.  The year 2006 also saw a 34% drop in the number of new ASBOs issued, and research conducted for the YJB revealed that nearly half of all orders were breached.[70] The Minister of State responsible for crime and policing admitted that he was "not happy" with the level of breaches which are not followed through.[71] Louise Casey told us:

The Home Secretary used the expression "coasting on antisocial behaviour". I would agree with that … we cannot leave bad behaviour and low level crime and antisocial behaviour unchecked.[72]

Perceptions of anti-social behaviour have improved slightly—17% of those surveyed for the British Crime Survey in 2008/09 perceived high levels of anti-social behaviour around them down from 18% in 2006/07[73]—but not dramatically. Anti-social behaviour is therefore back under the spotlight. The Crime and Security Bill currently under parliamentary consideration includes measures to increase the effectiveness of ASBOs, including make Parenting Orders mandatory upon breach.[74]

36.  This leads us to a wider point about the stage at which offending behaviour is addressed by the system. Chris Grayling MP argued that:

The criminal justice system … lets people get away with it for too long … I want to fill what I perceive to be a gap between first contact between the police and the offender and the criminal justice system.[75]

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman also spoke of the importance of a "short, sharp shock of some description".[76] This view was reinforced by User Voice. One former offender told us that his behaviour went unchallenged for a long time including, crucially, by himself, despite regularly being arrested and charged. It eventually took a custodial sentence for this to change. But as we explore in the next chapter, such sentences bring a whole raft of problems of their own.[77]

37.  A further related point concerns bullying. According to Professor Laycock:

One of the things I think we have got to do much more systematically is deal with school bullying, especially where it involves theft. To take a concrete example, in Ealing, when we looked at street robbery in 2006, the … biggest increase was an 84% increase in 16-year-old victims, 16 and below … and the perpetrators were other children. If you just think about what they are learning … is that you can steal things and nothing happens.[78]

The Safer Sutton Partnership also considered dealing with bullying to be an important part of preventing future offending behaviour. One of the functions of their new Life Centre is to teach school groups about bullying.[79]

38.  Given that a quarter of young people who commit anti-social behaviour progress to more serious offending, tough enforcement of anti-social behaviour should have a positive impact on reducing crime. However, an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) will not achieve this end unless it is both coupled with effective support interventions and is properly supervised. There should be greater efforts to encourage the attachment of Individual Support Orders to ASBOs and to follow-up the high level of breaches.

39.  Despite the introduction of ASBOs and other forms of intervention with young people at risk of offending, in many cases problem behaviour still goes unchallenged for too long. It is important to find a mechanism for dealing with this while avoiding criminalising young people. Challenging bullying is one important component of this; we were encouraged that in Sutton, for example, anti-bullying sessions will form part of the provision in their new Life Centre, and recommend that the results of this experience are shared with other areas once evaluated.


40.  Family Intervention Programmes (FIPs) were introduced as part of the Respect Agenda, to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour within families. The National Centre for Social Research carried out an independent evaluation of the 53 FIPs set up during 2006 and 2007, published in 2008, which found that:

  • Typically FIPs were working with families in their own homes for between six to 12 months.
  • 885 families were referred to a FIP between February and October 2007. Of these 78% met the referral criteria and agreed to work with a FIP. 90 families completed the FIP intervention during the evaluation period.
  • While the level of anti-social behaviour declined considerably, 35% of families were still engaged in anti-social behaviour when they completed the intervention (the corresponding figure at the start of the intervention was 92%).
  • The proportion of families reported to have no risk factors increased markedly from 1% at the start of working with a FIP to 20% by the end of it. Where risk factors were still present, there were considerable reductions in the number of risk factors families were reported to have.
  • The number of 5-15 year old children who were reported to have educational problems declined from 37% at the start of working with the FIP to 21% when they left.[80]

41.  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman commented that this approach of dealing with whole families seemed "hugely expensive" given that it involves "almost man-to-man marking" of family members.[81] However, Louise Casey drew our attention to a 2004 piece of research by which the Treasury showed that the average amount of money already being spent on a problem family is between £250,000 and £330,000 a year. By contrast, the average cost of a Family Intervention Project was between £8,000 and £20,000:

The families I am talking about [already] have a panoply of social workers, youth offending team workers, housing officers, police officers, ex-officers, floating support workers, drugs people, domestic violence people—upwards of 14 different organisations and individuals—taking an interest in those families, but my point is that you need a collaborative enforcement effort.[82]

42.  The Minister of State responsible for crime and policing, when asked for the Government's assessment of the number of problem families nationwide, cited the Prime Minister's announcement of the expansion of FIPs from 10,000 to around 56,000 families [in England] by 2015. He admitted that this was based on an assessment of what was possible "in relation to funding challenges".[83] This figure differs significantly from the estimates of "dysfunctional families" provided by the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and Graham Allen MP—10% of the population, rising to 25% over the next 20 years,[84] although they base this on US, rather than UK, population estimates.

43.  Given the importance of family relationships as a factor influencing future offending, interventions that focus on the behaviour of family units as a whole would appear to be a useful crime prevention tool. An initial evaluation of Family Intervention Programmes demonstrated their potential to reduce anti-social behaviour and other forms of problem behaviour, although we would advocate a further study that tracks the long-term results of intervention over the coming years. This level of family support does seem to be very expensive. However, there are indications it can be cost-effective in the long run given the extent of unco-ordinated contact that typically takes place between problem families and the myriad statutory agencies dealing with the implications of their behaviour. We consider that it would be useful for the National Audit Office to undertake further research in this area.

44.  The Prime Minister recently announced an extension of Family Intervention Programmes from 10,000 to 56,000 in 2015. The Home Office Minister admitted this figure was calculated on the basis of available resources rather than an assessment of the number of families who would benefit from intervention. The Centre for Social Justice has estimated that 10% of the population are growing up in "dysfunctional" families, a figure likely to rise to 25% within 20 years on current trends. Intervening to reduce these numbers would require a huge level of resources. This gives greater weight to the argument to intervene early with young children and their parents to prevent the escalation of problem behaviour.


45.  Parenting Orders are another form of enforcement-related supportive intervention. A Home Office study published in 1995 showed that 53% of surveyed males and 30% of surveyed females who had low or medium levels of parental supervision had offended, in comparison with 32% of males and 14% of females who had experienced high levels of parental supervision.[85] An order can be given to the parents or carers of young people who offend, truant or who have received an ASBO and usually require attendance at counselling or guidance sessions for a period of up to three months. They may also have conditions imposed on them such as attending meetings with teachers at their child's school, ensuring their child does not visit a particular place unsupervised or ensuring their child is at home at particular times, which can last for a period up to 12 months. Parents can be prosecuted for failing to keep the requirements of the order.

46.  Parenting Orders generally received a positive reaction from our witnesses. Although the Government has not yet carried out a formal evaluation of their effectiveness, the Minister of State responsible for crime and policing believed that "they are a valuable product and we are certainly encouraging their use still further".[86] The Youth Justice Board undertook an evaluation in 2002 of its Development Fund parenting programmes, which found a reduction in the levels of offending from 4.4 offences per young person before parenting interventions were delivered, to 2.1 afterwards.[87] The Liberal Democrat's Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne MP, agreed that parenting programmes could be effective; however, their effectiveness would be increased if they were imposed prior to offending behaviour, a point reiterated by Louise Casey.[88]

47.  Louise Casey was also concerned that youth courts have been attaching orders in too few cases, "only about 1,000 or 1,500 in something like 60,000 individual offenders":

I was so frustrated over those years. It seemed to me that people did not grip that if you did an ASBO on a young person, you had to look at what was happening in their families.[89]

The Home Secretary admitted during a recent debate on the Crime and Security Bill that Parenting Orders "have not been used widely enough".[90] The Home Office provided us with the following data.

Table 2: Parenting Orders by legal basis England and Wales YOTs[91]
England and Wales 00-0101-02 02-0303-04 04-0505-06 06-0707-08 Total
Crime 725 807 765 686 979 1,0691,014 1,049 7,094
Education 96 276 209 215 237 213 166 230 1,642
Other 158 129 202 197 686
Referral Order 176 183 227 295 881
ASBO 36 33 64 46 179
Sex Offences Prevention Order 0 0 1 0 1
Child Safety Order 0 0 1 0 1
Free Standing-YOT 7 7 16 8 38
Free Standing-LEA 0 0 18 21 39
Total979 1,2121,176 1,0981,435 1,5051,507 1,64910,561

The Bill would require the authority pursuing an ASBO to prepare a report on the person's family circumstances to encourage the courts to give more consideration to the award of Parenting Orders.

48.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that Parenting Orders are an effective means of improving parent-child interactions, a crucial protective factor against future offending. Levels of use are disappointing, however. The Crime and Security Bill currently going through Parliament would require the courts to give consideration to attaching a Parenting Order when handing down an ASBO, with attachment compulsory upon breach. There will be good reasons why in some cases the award of a Parenting Order is not appropriate but we hope that the legislation, if passed, will be a useful tool in increasing parenting support. Youth offending teams must ensure there is adequate provision to allow this to take place. Ideally, those parents in need of support should be able to access it before matters progress to this stage.

Re-directing funding to prevention

49.  Section 37 of the Crime and Disorder Act established that "it shall be the principal aim of the youth justice system to prevent offending by children and young persons." The YJB told us that the number of new entrants to the youth justice system in England fell by 20% between 2007/08 and 2008/09. However, this followed a rise in entrants during the preceding years.[92] Both Barnardo's and Catch 22 pointed to the low proportion of funding devoted to prevention and argued for a greater proportion of funding to be diverted to provide more timely support to young people at risk of offending.[93] The YJB appeared to agree with this analysis in its draft crime prevention strategy published in 2007, which stated that:

The limited prevention funding for YOTs [youth offending teams], until 2005, restricted our ability to promote the involvement of YOTs in prevention work with young people prior to them entering the Criminal Justice System … Early intervention is where the greatest scope for successful crime prevention lies, and it remains relatively unexplored and under-invested in.[94]

50.  YJB evidence to our inquiry pointed to a "significant expansion" in funding for targeted prevention programmes made available from 2005/06, which allowed the agency to allocate some funds for prevention to all youth offending teams in England and Wales for the first time. This has been used to finance initiatives such as Operation Staysafe and Triage, whereby YOT workers are located in custody suites to ensure intervention with young people starts at the earliest point from arrest, the further promotion of Safer School Partnerships, Family Intervention Programmes and an increased focus on parenting support.[95] Bob Ashford said:

When the Youth Justice Board ... and the Youth Offending Teams started just over ten years ago, the emphasis of both the YJB and Youth Offending Teams was really on preventing re-offending. What we have done over the last ten years is to shift that emphasis away not just from preventing re-offending, which we have done very successfully, but also to prevent offending in the first place.[96]

However, the YJB admitted that, of its £511m budget, only £36m or 7% is "specifically labelled as prevention money".[97] This sum had actually been cut by £2m from the previous year.[98]

51.  The Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Fiona Blacke, argued that if "even a small percentage" of youth custodial budgets, which she said are in the region of £360m, was focused on prevention, it would make an "absolutely enormous difference".[99] Local authorities who help to reduce the use of custody receive no financial benefits as they do not pay the costs; the YJB has had sole responsibility for purchasing and maintaining custodial places for young people since 2000.[100] Barnardo's recommended that:

Local authorities … carry the full costs for those children sentenced to custody so that there is a greater incentive for investment in prevention projects.[101]

This echoes calls last year from the Policy Exchange think-tank.[102] The YJB told us it is exploring how the role of local authorities in preventing offending can be developed further: in principle it favours improving financial incentives.

52.  Despite the fact that the principal aim of the youth justice system is to prevent offending, only 7% of the Youth Justice Board's £511m budget is ring-fenced specifically for prevention. We are disappointed that initial increases in recent years were diminished by a decrease of £2m between 2008 and 2009. The large sums spent on incarcerating young people means there is less money available for preventative activities. There are currently no financial incentives for local authorities to work towards reducing the use of custody, as the custody budget is held centrally. We urge the Government to give consideration to the introduction of such incentives.

Diversionary activities

53.  The 2008 Crime and Communities Review concluded that provision in the right places at the right time could help divert more young people into constructive activities and away from crime and anti-social behaviour. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 introduced a new duty on local authorities, through their children's trust arrangements, to secure access to sufficient positive leisure-time activities for young people in their area. This covers both recreational and educational provision, and includes a specific requirement to secure access to youth work activities. This legislation underpins the Government's ten year strategy for positive activities, Aiming high for young people, launched in July 2007. A key component of Aiming high is Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) funding, which aims to engage disaffected young people in high quality positive activities. In 2008/09, the government gave 15 local authorities a total of £6.5m additional PAYP funding to test out innovative approaches to involve the most disengaged young people in positive activities. All local authorities are receiving additional PAYP funding over the next two years—£28m in 2009/10 and £48m in 2010/11—to help them develop year round personalised provision for the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people.[103]

54.  Louise Casey told us that despite this increase in funding, youth services were not delivering effective programmes for young people:

We still have a way to go in getting a commonsense approach to youth activities … One of the least reformed areas of public service has to be the Youth Service. In some areas of the country they are working to term times.[104]

Eight out of ten parents or carers, and six out of ten teenagers say there is not enough for young people to do in their area.[105] User Voice's Adnan Mohammed, speaking from his experiences of growing up in South London, agreed that:

When we needed to see people or needed to be interacted with, it was not nine to five, it was unsociable hours, maybe 12 o'clock in the morning, on the streets.[106]

55.  The Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Fiona Blacke, considered that provision was improving:

I have to say I rather take a different stance in relation to the number of local authorities which are attempting to deliver [out of hours services]. I think many of them are attempting to move services towards that.[107]

The Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP) included a specific focus on weekend provision, setting out the Government's commitment to ensuring that more youth centres stay open late at weekends and evenings, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. The importance of weekend provision is also reflected in the criteria for the £270m myplace capital investment programme, and in the £22.5mYouth Capital Fund Plus initiative.[108]

56.  We asked Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman if the police had noticed any correlation between the advent of Positive Activities for Young People, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and crime levels. He replied:

Our indications are that, in those areas where additional funds have been made available and, in particular, an additional focus has been made, there has been a decrease in the amount of antisocial behaviour and violence. I think, though, that there are so many complex things happening at the same time that it would be wrong to draw a conclusion that it was just that one element that made a difference.[109]

57.  It is interesting to note that "diversion to leisure or recreation facilities" is included in a list of measures proven not to work in preventing criminality, cited in a Home Office research study. In respect of this list, the authors conclude:

Many of these were based on single measure interventions and it is now accepted that, to be effective, prevention programmes need to comprise a range of complementary measures which target multiple risk factors within the primary domains of a child's life.[110]

This need for complementary interventions came across in the evidence we received from several successful projects. Cricket for Change, based in Surrey, runs a number of diversionary programmes including 'Street20' Cricket, played in crowded urban environments on housing estates and with community groups throughout London over the last three years. Acting Chief Executive Andy Sellins told us that:

The key elements ... are that we are there all the time, that we have a positive, often male role model, who is their cricket coach but is so much more than their cricket coach ...

It is about having that young person out with one of our team … day in, day out showing them first about turning up on time, being responsible for your actions, building positive adult relationships ... This is a revelation to a lot of the kids.[111]

Adam Halls, a former client and now Development Manager for the organisation clarified that:

Cricket is very much the carrot that we dangle. It is more youth engagement and almost being a youth worker.[112]

58.  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman agreed that diversionary activities work where they involve young people in a process over a long period of time "where they are engaged with other people who set a series of values and expectations for them and enforce them".[113] Fiona Blacke also noted the importance for at-risk young people of having a long-term relationship with a trusted adult, as this is something often missing from their lives.[114]

59.  John Dennis and Steve Bell described the work they contribute to in Keighley, encouraging young people's participation in sport particularly through the Oakbank Sports College, the national Positive Futures programme and the sportKeighley partnership:

Will such work reduce crime? The answer is probably "not on its own" but it will certainly help as part of a co-ordinated approach … The key is to create the knowledge and confidence to access the available options and to make a positive lifestyle exciting, cool, challenging and "sexy" enough to be a viable alternative to boredom and crime.

They also warned about the need to be realistic about the long-term impacts of participation:

There is, for most people, a "glow" that comes from an uplifting and intense experience, one that pretty soon fades when returning to life's everyday challenges …

Whilst the short-term impacts of a sporting "diversionary" programme can be very profound and positive for a young person involved in any particular programme on an individual basis, the social conditions that lead youngsters into criminal activity still prevail.[115]

This was very much the experience described by former offenders with User Voice.[116] In order to maximise the effects, John Dennis and Steve Bell argue:

The concept of "getting out only what is put in" needs to be built-in. There is in a sense here the need to incorporate strongly into programmes the concept of "investment" (of time, effort and money) and of "responsibility"—most people have to invest their time and efforts in order to create the space and opportunity for doing what they wish to do. [117]

60.  It is disturbing to note that, despite an "overwhelmingly positive" response to Positive Futures in Keighley, the local scheme was wound down in 2006/07 because of a lack of funding.[118] The National Youth Agency warned that the indications from a survey of heads of integrated youth services in England were that funding issues are likely to worsen:

In almost every area people are being asked to plan for significant cuts in youth services, sometimes in excess of a third of those budgets. It is not that local authorities think they are unimportant or that directors of children's services think these are unimportant services; the problem is that once you take direct schools grant out of the local authority equation for children's services and they are having to make 10% cuts … you are finding that there is a much bigger hit on youth services than you might expect.[119]

Positive Activities for Young People, for example, is not a discrete, ring-fenced budget and is therefore at risk.

61.  The Audit Commission drew our attention to its recent study Tired of Hanging Around, published in January 2009. This found that preventive projects are cost-effective—a young person who starts showing behavioural problems at the age of five and is dealt with through the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer over £200,000 by the age of 16, while one given support to stay out costs less than £50,000—but a general lack of data on costs and performance constrains effective commissioning, national funding arrangements are inefficient and projects depend on unreliable short-term funding that is expensive to administer. A typical project leader spends a third of their time chasing new funds and reporting to their current funders but the full cost of applying for smaller grants can exceed the value of the grant. Most funding arrangements last for fewer than three years: this limits the effectiveness and sustainability of projects. [120] This latter point was reiterated by John Dennis and Steve Bell:

Funding is paramount, but so too is the co-ordination of such funding so that pragmatic and beneficial programmes with sustainable outcomes are mutually supported and are "built-in" to mainstream services and thus have long-term prospects. A series of short-term, effectively "ad-hoc" projects, no matter how good, cannot seriously expect to fundamentally change the behaviour of existing and future generations.[121

62.  Determining the type of activities run ideally requires user input to be successful. The same Audit Commission study found that young people are "rarely" consulted when planning new activities.[122] Adnan Mohammed told us:

The social activities that were put on by charities, clubs, social clubs, anything like that, the people that I knew and I grew up with that were in my area would not attend anything to do with any of that.[123]

The Government has pledged that young people will have control of 25% of youth budgets by 2018.[124]

63.  The expansion of the Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) initiative to provide diversionary activities on Friday and Saturday nights is to be welcomed, considering the historical deficiencies in youth service provision. The police have witnessed a reduction in problem behaviour on the part of young people following this expansion, although their representative acknowledged the difficulty in linking the two directly, as it was accompanied by additional preventative measures.

64.  Properly planned diversionary activities are valued by young people but will not reduce crime on their own. After they have taken part in such activities, young people return to find the challenges they face in their home and their community unchanged. The real benefit of such activities from a crime-prevention perspective is the exposure to positive role models and a glimpse of the attractions of a crime-free lifestyle, through interaction with a "trusted adult" who helps the young person to develop their self-esteem and to take responsibility for their own actions.

65.  In order to have a preventative effect, successful schemes must therefore receive long-term financial support to ensure such interactions can be sustained. We were inspired by the work of organisations working with at-risk young people, such as Cricket for Change, but depressed by tales of hard work falling by the wayside because of a lack of money. The Government and local authorities should make it easier for such voluntary organisations to thrive by providing funding on a longer-term basis and decreasing the bureaucratic burden; and prioritise organisations that include design input from potential users.


66.  User Voice argued that children from deprived backgrounds are not ready to start academic learning at the age of five. The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP cited scientific evidence showing that the brains of neglected children do not develop at the normal rate, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage compared with their peers at the beginning of their formal education.[125] User Voice argued that the education system should focus more on conflict resolution and emotional learning in order to meet their needs.[126] A Home Office crime prevention study found that this opinion is supported by the existing research:

Schools … where children feel emotionally as well as educationally supported, are those which are best placed to protect their pupils from engaging in criminal behaviour.[127]

Conflict resolution is one of the activities undertaken by Safer Schools Partnerships. Launched in September 2002, partnerships place a dedicated police officer within a school or a collection or schools. Over 450 Safer School Partnerships now exist and the Youth Crime Action Plan committed the Government to their further expansion.[128]

67.  As we would have expected from evidence given to our previous inquiries,[129] User Voice emphasised the importance of the transition from primary to secondary school in forming a child's life chances, including their likelihood of offending. They advocated the use of mentors—not teachers but non-authoritarian figures who children can relate to—to provide emotional support for this process.[130] There are a number of mentoring programmes in existence for socially excluded young people. In the main they appear to take place outside of schools but the Mentoring and Befriending Organisation does promote the expansion of peer mentoring opportunities for children and young people within primary and secondary schools through a national contract funded by the Department of Children, Schools and Families.[131]

68.  A mentoring study undertaken by researchers from the London School of Economics found that the young people engaged in the Mentoring Plus programmes run by Crime Concern and Breaking Barriers responded positively to mentoring, and that although there was no clear evidence that the programme had an impact in relation to offending, it did have a positive impact in relation to engagement with education, training and work, one of the risk factors for offending.[132]

69.  Young children from deprived backgrounds are less likely to develop emotional intelligence, self-esteem and basic conflict-resolution skills in the home. We consider that the early years of schooling should therefore place more focus on these areas, and advocate further expansion of the conflict resolution activity undertaken by Safer Schools Partnerships. The transition from primary school to secondary school has been highlighted as particularly important in affecting a child's life chances, including their risk of offending. Former offenders told us that they would have benefited from a mentor to help them through this process. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should give consideration to expanding the peer mentoring scheme that currently operates in some schools, with a particular focus on making provision available for pupils about to start secondary school and encouraging the use of mentors who have undergone similar experiences to children judged to be at-risk of offending.

29   John Graham, "What works in preventing criminality", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 7 Back

30   Ev 83 [Home Office] Back

31   Based on data provided in Ev 134 [Youth Justice Board]; Ev 108-9 [Catch 22] Back

32   Ev 109 [Catch 22] Back

33   Youth Justice Board, Risk and Protective Factors, 2005, Summary, p 29 Back

34   See for example Q 284 [Mr Duncan Smith MP], Qq 242-253 [DAC Jarman]; Q 278 [Mr Allen MP] Back

35   Q 191 Back

36   Q 159 Back

37   Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, November 2009, p 3 Back

38   Q 102 Back

39   Annex A Back

40   Q 278 [Mr Duncan Smith MP] Back

41   Graham Allen MP and Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens, Centre for Social Justice, September 2008, p 24 Back

42   Ibid, pp 21-22 Back

43   Qq 50-1 Back

44   Barnardo's, Locking up or giving up? Is custody for children always the right answer? London, 2008 Back

45   Youth Justice Board, Risk and Protective Factors, 2005, p 32 Back

46   Q 283 Back

47   Q 4 Back

48   Q 85 Back

49   Q 376, citing Home Office research published in 2001 Back

50   Richard Garside, Risky People or Risky Societies? Rethinking interventions for young adults in transition, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, December 2009, p 8 Back

51   Ibid., p 11 Back

52   Annex A Back

53   Ev 83 [Home Office] Back

54   Q 53; Q 260 Back

55   Ev 103 Back

56   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee on 14 December 2009, HC (2009-10) 130-ii, Q 178 Back

57   John Graham, "What works in preventing criminality", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 8 Back

58   Q 356 Back

59   Ev 103 Back

60   Q 281 [Mr Allen] Back

61   Q 280 Back

62   Graham Allen MP and Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens, Centre for Social Justice, September 2008, p 105 Back

63   Ev 104 Back

64   Jon Hales et al, Longitudinal analysis of the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003-06, Home Office, November 2009 Back

65   Q 313 Back

66   Ev 104 Back

67   Ev 126 Back

68   Q 252 Back

69   Home Office data cited in Anti-social behaviour order statistics, Standard Note SN/SG/3112, House of Commons Library, 30 October 2009, p 16 Back

70   " A short history of the ASBO", The Guardian, 27 August 2008,  Back

71   Q 314  Back

72   Q 19 Back

73   Alison Walker, John Flatley, Chris Kershaw and Debbie Moon (eds), Crime in England and Wales 2008/09, Home Office, July 2009, p 100 Back

74   Crime and Security Bill, clause 38 (2009-10) Back

75   Q 350 Back

76   Q 242 Back

77   Annex A Back

78   Q 392 Back

79   Q 432 Back

80   Clarissa White, Martha Warrener, Alice Reeves and Ivana La Valle, Family Intervention Projects: An Evaluation of their Design, Set-up and Early Outcomes, National Centre for Social Research, 2008 Back

81   Q 249 Back

82   Q 10 Back

83   Q 315 Back

84   Q 278 Back

85   John Graham and Benjamin Bowling, Young people and crime, Home Office Research Study 145, 1995, Table 4.1 Back

86   Q 325 Back

87   Ev 136 Back

88   Qq 260, 30 Back

89   Q 18 Back

90   HC Dec, 18 January 2010, col 27 [Commons Chamber] Back

91   Ev 136 Back

92   Ev 135 Back

93   Ev 102 [Barnardo's]; Ev 105 [Catch 22] Back

94   Youth Justice Board, Towards a Youth Crime Prevention Strategy, March 2007, p 4 Back

95   Ev 136 Back

96   Q 102 Back

97   Q 89 Back

98   "Youth offending teams begin to feel the pinch", Children and Young People Now, 13 August 2009, Back

99   Q 38. The most recent figure for youth custody expenditure, for 2008/09, was lower at 298m: HC Deb, 25 February 2010, 665W [Commons written answer] Back

100   Ev 136 Back

101   Ev 101 Back

102   Max Chambers, Arrested Development-reducing the number of young people in custody while reducing crime, Policy Exchange, July 2009 Back

103   National Youth Agency, Positive Activities for Young People: Expanding Friday and Saturday Night Provision, July 2009, p 3  Back

104   Q 16 Back

105   Audit Commission, Tired of hanging around-using sport and leisure activities to prevent anti-social behaviour by young people, January 2009, p 2 Back

106   Q 52 Back

107   Q 47 Back

108   National Youth Agency, Positive Activities for Young People: Expanding Friday and Saturday Night Provision, July 2009, p 3 Back

109   Q 248 Back

110   John Graham, "What works in preventing criminality", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 16 Back

111   Qq 441, 446 Back

112   Q 451 Back

113   Q 250 Back

114   Q 49 Back

115   Ev 120, 123 Back

116   Annex A Back

117   Ev 124 Back

118   Ev 122 Back

119   Q 64 Back

120   Audit Commission, Tired of Hanging Around-using sport and leisure facilities to prevent anti-social behaviour by young people, January 2009, pp 24, 76-82 Back

121   Ev 124 Back

122   Audit Commission, Tired of Hanging Around-using sport and leisure facilities to prevent anti-social behaviour by young people, January 2009, pp 2-4 Back

123   Q 52 Back

124   Q 56 Back

125   Q 278 Back

126   Annex A Back

127   John Graham, "What works in preventing criminality", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 13 Back

128   Ev 138 [Youth Justice Board] Back

129   See for example Home Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2008-09, Knife Crime, HC121 Back

130   Annex A Back

131   Memorandum submitted to the Children, Schools and Families Committee by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation, December 2009 Back

132   Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Mentoring disaffected young people: an evaluation of 'Mentoring Plus', June 2004 Back

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