Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 1 JULY 2008
Q200 Mrs James: I want to turn now
to re-investment outside of the youth justice system. To what
extent do national departmental priorities, for example health
and education policy, support and prevent local agencies from
prioritising outcomes for youth offending?
Ellie Roy: In the previous answer
Frances has outlined some of the barriers that exist because there
are not necessarily financial incentives for departments to invest
in children and young people who offend. I think we do come back
again to what happens at the local level and how local area agreements
are going to drive those discussions and those conversations at
local level to say it is important for all of us in the local
area that we do invest in these people. One of the frustrations
for me in working in the Youth Justice Board for the last four
years has been exactly this issue. It has been so difficult to
really get this issue about access to mainstream services and
investment from the other departments into children and young
people because they have other priorities. That is perfectly understandable
but it does mean that those young people are seriously disadvantaged
and cost an awful lot of money for everybody in the long term.
At the moment the best hope we have, and it is the most coherent
thing that has happened since I have been working in this, is
the PSA Framework and the selection of those 198 indicators. Six
of those actually relate to young people who are involved in crime
and they will drive the discussions at local level about who will
be prioritised and where the investment is going to take place.
I do think our best hope is to work with that because it is more
coherent than anything we have had before. The previous arrangements
have had people working separately and not in any sort of joined-up
way. This is the best hope we have at the moment.
Q201 Mrs James: Do you think those
mechanisms make allowances for local authorities to have some
sort of input? Looking at the experience I have in the busy constituency
I represent it is bringing all those people together.
Ellie Roy: Absolutely. The local
authority, at the end of the day, is responsible for many local
services and for the quality of life for local people and for
identifying what matters to people and what will be done about
it. It is crucial that they act as the linchpin for pulling together
all of these services and people even if they are not directly
local authority services at the local level. It is really important
those discussions take place. There are lots of partnership mechanisms
but the problem we have had is that a lot of those partnership
mechanisms, the Crime and Disorder Partnerships, Health Partnerships
and all sorts of things, do not actually work together to a single
set of priorities and that is what needs to happen.
Q202 Mrs James: Another comment that
I hear made is about financing, the actual spend that local authorities
and organisations have. Do you think there is potential for a
reprioritisation of the money currently spent on youth justice
to mainstream services? It must be a two-way thing.
Ellie Roy: If you get prevention
right then you can spend less on youth justice. If your prevention
works and you have really strong mainstream services and children
are sustained in school and have proper family support and all
the rest of it, then you will reduce the need to resort to justice
service. There is no question about that. For children in the
justice system, as I say, it has been a deep frustration that
in many areas the YOTs have struggled to make sure that those
children they are working with actually get back into school again
and when they come out of custody that they have accommodation.
That has been very dysfunctional. If you got prevention right
and in an ideal world that is where all of your investment would
be so you would not need any of the rest of it. But that is utopia,
and not in my lifetime, although I have been doing my best to
work towards it.
Q203 Julie Morgan: Continuing on
the same theme, in your memorandum to the Committee you say that
you would welcome more direct incentives and accountabilities
on other services that can contribute to the prevention of offending
and re-offending. Could you say how those direct incentives and
accountabilities would work and what you see? You mentioned the
PSA agreements but what incentives do you mean?
Frances Done: Ellie mentioned
the fact that we have been quite optimistic about this new performance
framework in England, and in Wales there is a different set of
arrangements, because for the first time the priorities across
the key partners, particularly police and local authorities and
so on, are aligned. For example, whereas a couple of years ago
there was an issue about the police operating on a target of offences
brought to justice which brought more young people into the youth
justice system, they now have the Police framework, APACS, which
has the priority for reducing re-offending and also for preventing
offending, i.e. reducing first time entrance to the system. The
Police framework is also prioritising the same issues as are in
the six youth justice indicators. The youth justice indicators
are around prevention, re-offending, the percentage of young people
sentenced to custody, the availability of suitable accommodation
for young offenders, the number of young people engaged in education,
training and employment, which is the key risk factor in terms
of re-offending, and the other one is about disproportional treatment
of BME groups. Those are the six indicators and what will be possible
now is to use these indicators to point up performance in local
areas. It is not a financial incentive but it is very much a performance
incentive. We believe that there is the capacity under the new
Comprehensive Area Assessment, which is going to replace the Comprehensive
Performance Assessment of councils, will bring an assessment which
is more relevant to YOTs because it is a partnership. We think
that will be a very powerful indicator of where there is failure
to perform and leading to a risk-based inspection or basically
a public statement that this service around youth offending is
not delivering for this area. We think that compared to the systems
we have had available before this is will be a powerful lever.
Q204 Alun Michael: You refer to perhaps
illustrating the cost of the youth custody budget by local areas.
Would it be good idea to decentralise the youth custody budget?
Frances Done: It would be really
good if we could find a straightforward way of requiring local
government to have to set aside the money, and that has been the
subject of some discussion. The complications around that are
obviously, in a sense, you would then have to transfer the YJB
budget into local government. I do not need to tell you all how
complicated it is to get big sums of money through revenue support
grant and where it comes out is where it comes out. The key issue
which has to be grappled with is that the commissioning of places
in young offender institutions and other secure units has to be
coherent. We have three types of secure units and most of our
places are in young offender institutions, but in order to be
able to manage the standard of provision and to monitor the provision
in terms of the whole regime, the quality of the regime and the
safety of the young people in it, we cannot see a practical way
by which local authorities could individually commission places.
That becomes a challenge as well as the fact that the system is
fairly near capacity anyway; there are not just empty secure units
waiting to be commissioned by authorities. It is quite a complicated
Q205 Alun Michael: It could be a
purchasing system similar to the Health Service.
Frances Done: Yes, it could be.
That is a possibility because that would just require a transfer
of our budget to local authorities. As I said, the authority that
has 112 young people would be paying for those and then we would
carry on with the commissioning arrangement as such. That is something
that could happen and obviously local government would have a
view about that. That would be a straight transfer of budget.
The issue for local authorities would be the fact that they would
not have any control over the custodial arrangement. The enormous
advantage would be they would start very carefully considering
those costs in the way that they do now, for example, with special
education appeals where a chief executive, a leader, a treasurer,
is very conscious of the cost of a placement in a special educational
Q206 Alun Michael: You are rightly
rehearsing the arguments but I was asking for your conclusion.
Frances Done: Our view is if it
is possible to find a way where local authorities feel the cost
of the custodial places in the way they do not now then we would
Q207 Alun Michael: Another way of
approaching this is with the new youth justice unit created by
the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools
and Families. There is a sort of bridge and it could be outside
both or it could have a foot in both. What impact do you think
the creation of that unit will have on the closer integration
between youth justice and Children's Services at a policy level
but also at a practical level?
Frances Done: It is incredibly
helpful to have that joint sponsorship because we look at our
role as supporting young people and also making communities safer.
Trying to get the bridge is right and to have the two sponsored
departments makes it easier for us to do that. Locally YOTs are
very much related to Children's Services in local areas; in fact
85% of YOT managers are line managed within Children's Services.
What has happened is, as you know, at the start many YOTs were
line managed by chief executives or community safety, or something
like that, and over time they have migrated from choice of the
local area into Children's Services to be line managed there.
There are absolutely strong links and everyone feels if those
links were stronger and better it would be more possible for mainstream
Children's Services to feel that young offenders are a cause for
their attention and everybody would support that.
Q208 Alun Michael: Does the change
in line management really mean that the whole subject has dropped
down the order of priorities for local authorities as a whole?
Frances Done: Not necessarily.
It often means that the local partnership acknowledges the close
involvement between YOTs and Children's Services and recognises
that but still maintaining the very close links with police and
courts and the rest of the justice system. The joint sponsorship
is very helpful because DCSF are now very much looking at the
way in which local Children's Services are playing their part
in youth offending and that is really important.
Q209 Alun Michael: Coming back to
that oversight of the board and the policy area across the two
departments, what we are talking about is where the capacity is
for change so that resources are used more effectively. You have
responded on some of the areas. Do you think that joint responsibility
is likely to make it easier to get transfers of resources and,
therefore, undertake the sort of reinvestment programmes that
we are looking at or do you think it might make it more difficult
because you have to persuade two departments?
Frances Done: As between the two,
it has actually made it easier but there are other departments
outside. DCSF have funded intensive fostering and social workers
in YOIs which otherwise would have been difficult to get.
Ellie Roy: The answer is in theory
yes. We have to see how it works as we move forward and as we
identify where we think money should be invested and spent.
Q210 Mr Sharma: What else would you
need to change in the current service and financial structures
to enable Justice Reinvestment to work for YOTs and their partners?
Frances Done: I think we feel
there is now the framework within which we can point up the ability
or otherwise of local areas to really deliver on the services
that are needed to make the biggest difference to re-offending.
We think the prevention message is out there and is being powerfully
implemented in many areas. Those areas that are not doing well
are beginning to get the message and that will be massively supported
by future plans and DCSF. I think that side is fine. The inability
of many areas to get the services that an individual young person
needs at the right time goes far wider than DCSF and MoJ; it is
in DCLG and the Department of Health. That is the biggest challenge
and our contribution to that, working with MoJ and DCSF as our
sponsors, is to highlight, and we indeed do this, those areas
where there is a failure to deliver a mental health service when
it is needed or supported accommodation and then track that back
up to the sponsoring department. One understands that local authorities
do not have infinite finances so it is probably very much our
job to tell that story. Now we have the performance framework
which has data in it then it will be inarguable and we will be
in a position to do that more strongly.
Ellie Roy: There is a question,
for example, about the money in the secure estate which you asked
me about previously and could you re-invest that. If I had a chance
I would want to see more investment in mental health facilities
for young people and some of these being residential facilities.
We are holding a significant number of young people in the secure
estate that have quite challenging mental health problems. The
problem we have in saying they should be placed somewhere else
is that you cannot take the money out of the secure estate. We
would need a double investment for a time in order to develop
the facilities so that you could move those young people and then
reduce the number of beds that you have in custody. At any point
if you want to reduce the investment in custody you have to reduce
by a significant number. We do not save anything if we take out
three, four, five or 10 beds because you need to be able to close
whole units. There is a question, in looking at reinvestment and
better value, in looking at whether there are areas where you
need some double investment for a period of time in order to develop
what is needed to deal with young people differently so you can
reduce the investment in custody. Over a period of two or three
years you could do that if you looked at the right areas but you
would need that double investment to start with.
Chairman: Thank you very much. We are
very grateful to the three of you.