Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 183 - 199)



  Q183  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming along this afternoon. We actually have in mind, at some point, having a session with you more generally about your work but we are particularly involved in the work you are doing on justice reinvestment so we thought we better concentrate on that today. For that reason I am going to start off by asking you about the use of data by the Youth Justice Board itself and by Youth Offending Teams in planning and prioritising resources in particular the ASSET data. To what extent is this information used to support the case for access to essential services to local authorities and other agencies?

  Brendan Finegan: ASSET as a tool for assessing the risk of re-offending as a tool which is part of wider assessment process, in particular around pre-sentence reports in terms of advising sentencers as to the best way to sentence those cases and as a consequence that generates an intervention plan. That intervention plan, and our advice to Youth Offending Teams, is to ensure that that message goes out to the partnership that forms the Youth Offending Team. That evidence around the assessment and ASSET is used to generate referrals and requests for information, help and advice and guidance to assist the young people regarding particular problems that have been identified as problematic. There were 12 areas which ASSET covers ranging from thinking and attitudes through to neighbourhood and family relationships, problem solving and attitudes to offending.

  Q184  Chairman: Is this a good robust database?

  Brendan Finegan: We, in the first three years of ASSET, had it reviewed and it has a confidence rate of almost 70%. Seven times out of ten, no matter which professional in the Youth Offending Team uses it, it correctly identifies the risk of re-offending. I would argue that is an extremely strong assessment tool.

  Q185  Chairman: You have recently revised your Key Elements of Effective Partnership guidance. Has that revealed gaps in the evidence base for effective practice and, if it has, are there changes you are going to try to make as a result?

  Brendan Finegan: Our first Key Elements of Effective Practice were 15 documents so a very broad range. We are revising those to produce 10. In the use of the previous 15 the key gap we begin to fill was about how to engage often troubled and troubling young people and to advise practitioners how to better engage with those young people. We have a document now that gathers together the research and the promising practice about what are the skills and techniques that are best used to engage those who are, by and large, not generally biddable and willing to engage. We have added engagement within that process.

  Q186  Chairman: We have been having a look at the state of Oregon where they have a statutory regime which actually requires the increasing use of investment on programmes which are shown to be effective. They go up stage by stage and it is not just a requirement but a target to implement programmes which are shown to be effective. How would you feel if you had to implement that?

  Frances Done: The processes we are involved in at the moment are around identifying best practice, investing in innovation pioneering approaches but always being very careful to evaluate those, as far as possible, to assess the cost effectiveness. Although sometimes that is quite difficult to do, certainly that is the attempt for the independent research and that is applied across all our prevention programmes. Things like the alternative to custodial sentences like ISSP and intensive fostering, which is a new approach which we are piloting now, that general approach is there all the time. One of the key areas for us is about the ability for YOTs to access the sort of supporting services that are identified as being needed. This is where the re-investment issue comes in because the services that are very often needed, whether they be mental health services or specially supported accommodation services, are for young people either before custody who could benefit enormously from that sort of service or post-custody in resettlement. They are not always available at the time they are needed. There is unfortunately not a direct incentive, although practice varies across local authorities, to save the costs of custody, which is the end position for a young offender, in order to provide those services. We are very interested in using the new performance framework for local services which will really point up these issues much more powerfully. Starting from the 1 April this year, where there are six youth justice indicators as part of a national set of indicators, our assessments will be much more powerful because they are area-based assessments. That is not the whole answer obviously but it will highlight the areas more powerfully which are not delivering on the services that young people need at the time they need them.

  Q187  Chairman: We will come back to the question of incentivising because that is an important one. Once you have a statutory requirement to re-direct resources into areas which are shown to be effective, does that not start to break down some of the barriers to the availability of the very services you have just described because you find yourself under a statutory obligation to shift services into that?

  Brendan Finegan: I think Oregon will have the benefit of providing that direct control. In our current arrangements local authorities manage those Youth Offending Teams and the Board through its Key Elements of Effective Practice that you identify: here are the behaviours, activities and habits that you need to adopt that are more or less likely to be effective. We shape that through a grant-making process and a quality assurance process to say how well are you using those messages as to what is effective and how well are you using those. That is part of our overall assessment of Youth Offending Teams: how well are they applying those messages. In a sense there is a constitutional arrangement whereby we could say we would like you to spend them on these but local authorities and their councillors and other relationships make decisions for their own council taxpayers and residents.

  Ellie Roy: Could I comment on that as well? It would be very challenging to implement a programme in the way you are suggesting. Although we have the Key Elements of Effective Practice they draw on the best of available evidence at the moment but it is very difficult often to prove a direct correlation between a particular programme and a particular outcome. There are questions around how you actually make those judgments about what is best and where the investment should be. I also think that we would really struggle because that would mean we would dictate to local areas what they needed to invest and that would be very difficult with the arrangements we have currently. The third challenge is if you look at what happened in the adult probation service in accredited programmes it was very, very challenging to implement the accredited programmes and was very intensive in terms of management resources. There is a huge cost implication there as well both in terms of the national system to run it and in terms of the management implications locally and that is still an issue for probation services today. It is not to say that we do not want to see best practice because indeed we do but it is not as straight forward as saying there are six programmes and if you do those all will be well in the world. If only it were that simple.

  Q188  Mrs Riordan: What is your current capacity for making decisions about how the resources for youth justice and young offenders are allocated and spent?

  Frances Done: Our national budget is two thirds spent on custody and one third on other schemes. Largely that is grants to Youth Offending Teams which do, in a sense, have the effect of directing towards best practice because they are used to fund prevention schemes, the intensive supervision schemes and pilots like intensive fostering so we can influence quite strongly what happens with that money. Bear in mind a large part of the funding for youth justice as regards the YJB world part of it is through Youth Offending Teams. Two thirds of the budget of Youth Offending Teams across the country comes from local sources and the other third from the YJB so it is quite a complex set of funding. Given the pressure there has been on the numbers coming through into the youth justice system, Youth Offending Teams have had very large increases in workload but much smaller increases in budget so the degree to which they have been able to flex in terms of prioritising this rather than that has been extremely limited. Similarly with the Youth Justice Board budget, a fairly strong heavy commitment towards custodial accommodation and the other funding coming in for specific schemes like the money from the Home Office for prevention, there is very little room for maneouvre in terms of sitting down with our budget at the beginning of the year and saying this year we will spend it on something different.

  Q189  Mrs Riordan: Are there any examples of local crime mapping and examination of cost benefits of alternative approaches? In my constituency of Halifax there is so much going on to reduce youth offending I am wondering how that is mapped out and taken into account and the results shown, if they are examined and shown to be effective or not. How is that mapped out?

  Frances Done: In general terms the YJB had a target for 2005-08 to reduce the first time entrants to the youth justice system. That is the prevention target and that has been achieved. The final figures will be available in August but we know that we will have comfortably achieved that. When I say "we", we are at the centre but that is the efforts of all the Youth Offending Teams across the country which is very encouraging. As you know from your own experience, some local areas have done much better than 5% and it has been deemed to be a very big success. Some areas still have to do more and some areas are more challenging than others but that is definitely the way to go. Obviously in terms of all the discussions going on around the Youth Crime Action Plan, that is a very strong theme obviously given how much it costs for a young person beginning in the youth justice system and then into the adult system and maybe a persistent offender. The cost of that is huge and any money spent at the beginning to identify young people and parents who need support has to be the right way. Our schemes fund 25,000 interventions with young people approximately every year and about 11,000 parents are engaged directly through Youth Offending Teams.

  Brendan Finegan: In terms of specifics, I can provide you with some written evidence in terms of where that is happening. As a generality, we will say the involvement in Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and their local analysis, audits of crime, we know that almost all Youth Offending Teams will be engaged in that audit of crime and disorder. Particularly they will be engaged with identifying prolific and priority offenders in terms of the top twenty who may be the most prolific or you wish to deter in that process. We also know that in terms of using mapping tools that some YOTs—and I will find out in particular—are working with their local authorities to hot spot work with the health authority, the fire service and the police in terms of overlaying that map. You may receive evidence from Professor Wikström in Cambridge who is doing some interesting work around mapping where offenders live and where they commit crimes. We are keeping an eye on that because we think that is a very important piece of future evidence that some young people will live in areas that are low crime but go to high crime areas to commit crime. I would advise you to keep an eye on Professor Per Wikström's work in Cambridge.

  Q190  Alun Michael: That sort of work has been going on for over 10 years now and is not new. Has it not been developed into a methodology that is being followed by all the Youth Justice Teams by now?

  Brendan Finegan: I cannot say that it has been developed into a methodology. In terms of the use of hot spotting and mapping, I took it to mean geomapping.

  Q191  Alun Michael: You made a very interesting link to the mapping of offences by the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and very clearly there is a big link between the two roles there. That is what intrigued me when you said that use had been made of it. I may be over-optimistic but I would have thought by now that would be almost as professional as accountancy in terms of mapping and using a methodology in order to drive the interventions at a local level.

  Brendan Finegan: I do not know the detail. I assume they are all there but I will come back and confirm YOTs are engaged in that process of hot spotting and mapping crime and disorder.

  Ellie Roy: It links into a wider point which is about how they work locally and how well they are linked together in partnership. The original question was also about everything that has gone on in an area and how do people know if it is happening in the right places with the right children or with the right people. There is a big issue about how well people work in partnership and how well those partnerships are led. It has to be co-ordinated and developed strategically at a local level. The Crime and Disorder Partnerships, as far as I am aware, do not have a single methodology. In some places they are using geomapping and they are using that to inform the Partnership tasking.

  Alun Michael: That also is a great surprise because it seems to have abandoned the one thing that could give you the information on which you could target.

  Q192  Chairman: It is your job to promote best practice.

  Ellie Roy: That has been led by the Home Office and I cannot say what they are doing on it.

  Q193  Alun Michael: The entry and starting point would have to be the mapping by the police and the other partners in order to have that information, would it not?

  Ellie Roy: There are two separate issues to think about here: one is the physical mapping. Where is crime taking place and when is it taking place? Is it between three and five o'clock on bus routes from schools and, if so, you know where to put your resources. There is that physical part and that would be led locally the Community Safety Partnership and the Crime and Disorder Partnership. There is then the other information sharing and intelligence sharing which Brendan referred to which is about prolific and priority offenders which is a scheme that runs across the country and that is about the people, not so much where they offend but who are the people and what do we do. You can do two sets of things in terms of stopping offending: you can do the situational so you can have your police in places that are vulnerable to crime at particular times of the day, but there is a question then about what you do about the people. You can choose whether you target people, places or products and indeed in ideal situations all three. That intelligence sharing we do encourage at a local level. Again it is back to this issue of how well people work together and how much information they are prepared to share together. Things like the Youth Inclusion and Support Panels will identify some of those children at a young age who have a number of risk factors in their lives so they target the prevention resources around some of those children.

  Frances Done: Can I follow up on the people bit? Obviously at local level police, YOTs, Children's Services are all working together increasingly effectively. At national level we support all that in terms of our work with ACPO. There is being rolled out now, and will be rolled out quite soon, something that is called the ACPO/YJB Youth Toolkit which is effectively about sharing information within an area with all the relevant agencies, not just about the prolific offenders which is already standard practice but about those young people who are most likely to be, or are beginning to be, causing problems in a local area and actually then really focusing resources on them. Some of authorities have already done this to very good effect and it is beginning to be understood to be best practice. These pilots are being evaluated and worked through and we fully anticipate, working very closely with ACPO, that we will be encouraging police forces through ACPO and YOTs through our encouragement to adopt that approach. I think that is a really important approach because it puts the resource where there is most risk. Also alongside that there is increasingly very good joint working at local level between police and YOTs in order to deal with young people who commit minor offences in order to work through with them, with the victim, having their family and carers in talking about what they have done, why they have done it and how they will go on in the future and some appropriate remedy which leads them to not getting onto the first rung of the youth justice system. In places like Staffordshire and Leicestershire this has been very effective but it only works if you get incredibly good partnership working.

  Q194  Mr Sharma: You said that two thirds of your budget is spent on youth custody. About three years you committed to reducing the number of children sentenced to custody. Should more emphasis be placed on reducing the use of custody through local targets and performance indicators? What are the barriers to achieving a reduction in spending on youth custody?

  Frances Done: The Youth Justice Board is very committed to reducing numbers in youth custody. The barriers are that clearly it is not the Youth Justice Board's decision but it is for the courts to decide. Therefore our job, and the job of Youth Offending Teams, is to give magistrates and judges the confidence that the community sentences that are available will be the appropriate remedy and the appropriate penalty for the relevant young person. At the time we made a commitment to try and reduce the numbers in custody by 10% absolutely. Obviously we were overtaken by events in terms of increasing numbers of young people coming through the system. What we have been able to do, and we feel quite pleased about this although we would have preferred to have an absolute reduction, is the percentage of all sentences ending up with custody for young people has gone from 8% to 6% between 2002 and the last figures last year. That is very fortunate because otherwise we would have probably had another couple of hundred young people in custody compared to now. The absolute numbers in custody have stayed approximately the same since the YJB took responsibility: 2,900 on average. The answer to the barriers issue is that we clearly have not yet given enough sentencers confidence in intensive supervision and surveillance. We are piloting intensive fostering because we are realistically optimistic that will be something worthwhile but it needs to be properly evaluated before we can say that. It is encouraging that DCSF money is being used to finance that pilot. In terms of the questions you are asking about reinvestment, it is encouraging because DCSF do not stand to gain from the budget reduction in custodial costs if intensive fostering is successful. It is encouraging that our joint sponsors, MoJ and DCSF, are able to work together in such a way that even though they do not benefit directly DCSF are willing to put that money in. We have to help YOTs get as much confidence in their local magistrates' benches and we know that the better the relationship between the YOT and the court the more they are confident in the reports that the YOT do and the better general understanding there is about the work of the YOTs, the way the referral panels work and so on, the more likely it is that there will be lower custody rates. I have here a list of the percentage custody rates across all the local authorities in the country and there is a huge variation. There are consistent patterns between different local authorities year on year. Now that is a performance indicator in the national indicator set from this April so we will be in a position to focus much more strongly in discussions with local areas about that. Also it will feature as a real issue in the comprehensive area assessment process that will start from April 2009.

  Q195  Mr Sharma: What is the potential for reprioritisation of the money currently spent on youth custody within youth justice services?

  Ellie Roy: The Youth Justice Board has to provide safe custodial places for any children sentenced to custody or remanded to custody by the courts. Therefore, the answer that Frances has just given about the challenge of reducing the numbers is really crucial to this. We could spend less money on custody even for the children that we have there but that would mean reducing regime and I think increasing the risk for children held in custody. We are committed for as long as we have children in custody to providing the best that we can and there is a balance to be struck in terms of how we use our money. One of the things I would draw attention to is if you look at the increases year on year in the money we spend on custody some of that is driven by, for example, inflation and just the general costs. At the moment with the economic situation the way it is, with increases in the cost of utilities and food and so forth, we will see the costs of custody actually rising. The key to this really is trying to reduce the numbers and actually have alternatives, particularly for those children and young people sentenced to short detention and training orders so they can be confidently held in the community because it is much better to have children dealt with there if that is at all possible. That is the challenge in re-prioritising the budget.

  Q196  Mr Sharma: The YJB established and funded the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme as an alternative to custody but it has not reduced the use of custody. Why do you think this is and how can it be changed to achieve a greater impact?

  Ellie Roy: I have worked in criminal justice for most of my working life and in my experience every time you put in something as an alternative to custody you pull some people into that scheme who would have been on lower intensity supervision and you pull some people out of custody. You never get a pure situation where an alternative to custody pulls everybody from custody and that is the situation that we have with the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme. We may well, if that programme had not existed, have seen the numbers, which have been stable for the last eight years, actually increasing but it is difficult to say whether they would have increased by the 5,000 a year we have had on ISSP. I do not think the numbers in custody would have increased by 5,000 a year but they would have increased quite significantly. The fact that, as Frances has said, we managed to keep the numbers stable while they were actually rising dramatically on the adult side is probably evidence and testimony to what we have achieved through having the ISSP in place and being able to give sentencers confidence that those young people who caused grave concern could be supervised safely in the community.

  Q197  Chairman: The end result is the same numbers of young people are still taking the custodial route which is most likely to lead them to re-offending.

  Ellie Roy: It is a major challenge without a doubt. We did a lot of training a couple of years ago, particularly with district judges, and we carried out an exercise with them on what we called Cusp of Custody. We said here is a case where you could make a judgment either way because the offending is either very persistent or quite serious. We got them to discuss the cases and we found that half of the sentencers would have sentenced to custody and the other would have sentenced to community supervision. We all have our different views on what is safe to do. A lot of sentencers believe that they use custody absolutely as a last resort but they also have responsibilities to the communities those young people come from. The crux of it is whether or not they have confidence in what the Youth Offending Teams will do with those young people if they are supervised in the community.

  Q198  Alun Michael: Can I ask about the total spending on youth offenders and those at risk of offending? You have several times referred to those who were offenders, those who were prolific offenders and those at risk of offending. Has any attempt been made to examine total spending across departments, in other words not just by the Youth Offending Team but by health, education, social welfare and criminal justice at national and local level?

  Frances Done: We always end up referring back to the Audit Commission reports because they are the most authoritative view of the overall picture. Misspent Youth, which was published in 1996, as you well know, was the reason that the whole process of joining up youth justice happened. The review that took place in the Audit Commission in 2004 had a look at those reforms and in each of those publications there are figures which estimate the sort of resources going in. The point that is very relevant about that to the custody issue is there is no doubt that if significant sums of money were available from other departmental budgets other than Ministry of Justice and DCSF for the sorts of services which address the risk factors that are identified on the ASSET form right at the beginning and were very carefully directed to those young people, we think there would be a much greater chance of keeping young people out of custody.

  Q199  Alun Michael: As you have indicated, both those reports implied that each of the departments that I have referred to were having to spend money on the same young people who are the customers of the youth justice system. That is what the justice reinvestment question is all about: how do you move money to the place where it can be spent better in a more targeted way. You have indicated an understanding of the issue but is it happening? How can you shift resources to ensure that it is properly targeted?

  Frances Done: This is where we feel there does need to be quite a radical change in approach. You could look at it at national level and local level but the immediate instance of the young person is at local level. The question is are Children's Services really engaged with the young person to make sure they are in education, they are not excluded from school, they are turning up at the PRU or being trained or being given a job opportunity. Are local mental health services available when the young person needs support from them and crucially is there supported accommodation for young people who cannot go back to a family and thrive? Initially clearly it has to be a local authority and their partners who make those services available but behind that there is a bigger question. Of course you know the Supporting People grant which pays the running costs of supported hostels is from DCLG who have no other direct financial interest in young offenders, although I am not saying they do not care. Equally the Department of Health are the ones who have to provide the money for mental health facilities which, as we know, is an issue across the whole criminal justice system and not just for youth offenders. There is a real issue about that. We can put pressure on departments at national level but obviously there are plenty of other pressures. At local level we feel the new performance framework will point up very powerfully the inadequacy of local provision of services for young people at the time they need them in a way we have not been able to do before so we are going to make the most of that opportunity. Obviously these discussions are going on around the Youth Crime Action Plan and we feel there needs to be a more explicit duty on local authorities and their partners to provide the services at the time they are needed. These are young offenders and the investment in them is important for those young people but also it would save money if it was invested at the right time. As you know, none of that is straight forward. There are other things we can do such as publish the costs of custody as, at the moment, it is really hidden. The list I have here shows that the local authority with the most young people in custody right now has 112, it will change day to day, and the lowest is 0. The average metropolitan borough or London borough has about 25 young people in custody at any time and if you multiply that by the average cost of £90,000 that is £2 million or £3 million which is a lot of money. Maybe we should be thinking about publishing that information so that local taxpayers know it. Even if it is not out of Council tax it is out of national taxation. We want to drive up the understanding of the significance of this issue. Now we have the new performance framework which makes it less possible for local areas to challenge the data and the implications of it, we are intending to work particularly with metropolitan areas, and obviously London, where the greatest numbers in custody come from, to work on how we can support them in more coherent commissioning of the services that are needed for young people. When I go to any secure unit, young offenders institution, secure children's home or secure training centre I always ask at the end what one thing would you change if you could and they always say resettlement: having access to the services that are needed for that young person the day they go out the door. They may have worked with them for five, six, seven months, or even years, and they cannot be sure what will happen although they do their best.

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