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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 210)



  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 problem.

  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 needs institution.

  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 support that.

  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.

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