Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) welcomes the Committee's inquiry. This submission provides background information on the issues in the terms of reference and the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child of most relevance to the specific functions of the YJB. We would pleased to provide any further information that would be of assistance to the Committee.

BACKGROUND ON THE ROLE OF THE YJB

  2.  The YJB is a Non-Departmental Public Body established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Its role is to oversee and support performance in the youth justice system. Since April 2000 the YJB has had responsibility for making arrangements for the provision of secure accommodation for children and young people sentenced or remanded by the courts. YJB maintains oversight of contracts and service level agreements for secure accommodation services. While the YJB has a key role in overseeing the youth justice system it does not directly manage youth justice services including Youth offending teams (YOTs) which are locally-managed partnerships that deliver the majority of youth justice services in the community.

CHILDREN IN CUSTODY

  3.  In fulfilling its commissioning role, the YJB is committed to ensuring the safe and effective use of custody. The YJB set out its approach to developing custodial provision in its last Strategy for the Secure Estate for Children and Young People published in 2005. This included a clear statement of the principles to which we are working (set out in Annex A) and a clear commitment to the rights of children held in custody:

    "The rights of children and young people held in custody should be respected and upheld. The YJB believes that it is important for the rights of children and young peoples to be recognised and upheld, particularly when they are in custody. In particular, the Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child should underpin work with children and young people in custody."

      4.  The YJB welcomes the fact that the Youth Crime Action Plan published in July last year set out the government's commitment to key principles around the use of custody. These echo to a large extent the principles that have been set out by the YJB in its strategy.

      5.  The YJB aims to ensure a secure, healthy, safe and supportive place for children and young people is provided however short or long their period in custody might be. The YJB believes that this is best delivered through a separate estate with a dedicated workforce where staff have the ability to engage with children and young people in a constructive way and respond positively to young people including when they demonstrate challenging behaviours. We are committed to seeking a child focused regime and that entitlements to services are realised.

      6.  Annex B sets out some of the key developments since April 2000 that have helped to deliver a more child focused system, including the development of new facilities, investment in services and improvements to safeguarding arrangements.

      7.  The progress made in developing discrete facilities for children and young people separate from adults has helped to enable the government to remove the reservation to the UNCRC article 37(c) as announced in September 2008. We recognise that this means ensuring there continues to be sufficient places commissioned for this age range. We also recognise that the UNCRC article should not be interpreted to mean that when children turn 18 they should automatically be transferred to adult establishments.

      8.  Despite the progress that has been made we recognise there is still a lot do to improve custodial provision. The YJB is currently in the process of revising its strategy and setting out the priorities for the next three years that will be subject to consultation. A key focus for the YJB for the next period is further work to ensure there are discrete and dedicated facilities and workforce arrangements. Alongside this we will be working to improve approaches to resettlement from custody, as outlined in the Youth Crime Action Plan, including through facilitating closer work between secure establishments and local authorities. We will also be supporting the government's plans to transfer responsibility for education provision in youth custody to local authorities, which is subject to the passage of legislation in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill 2009. We particularly support giving children in custody clear legal entitlements to education and training in custody. Finally, we will be taking forward the work on safeguarding and behaviour management in custody set out below.

    Safeguarding and behaviour management

      9.  The YJB recognises that child safety and safeguarding is not only vital in its own right but is paramount to the success of any period in custody in terms of addressing offending behaviour and working constructively with young people.

    10.  It is important that there is a rounded approach to the safety of children in custody that deals with all aspects of their vulnerability. This includes first night and induction procedures, anti-bullying, child protection and substance misuse arrangements.

      11.  The YJB's three year child protection and safeguarding programme invested £10.5 million over the three years 2005 to 2008 across six initiatives and led a number of improvements in safeguarding arrangements in YOIs. In 2007, the YJB commissioned the National Children's Bureau to work in conjunction with the YJB and the secure estate to assess the impact of the safeguarding programme and to help us to develop a programme for the next phase of work. The review[612] highlighted a number of important aspects of effective safeguarding that set a framework for our future work. These include:

      —  young people feel safer where they are in smaller units with adequate staff levels; the ethos of the staff and the relationships they form with young people are child centred rather than disciplinarian; and the quality of the built environment is good;

      —  in an effective safeguarding framework staff are given clear direction about expectations, roles and responsibilities; there is sufficient capacity to fulfil responsibilities; and there are transparent lines of accountability;

      —  national and local government agencies have to set effective policies and procedures; ensure there are adequate structures and resources; and ensure the effective use of information;

      —  establishments must have a safeguarding ethos; this means being in a position to take an overview of their policy and practice, to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to develop plans to improve; and

      —  there must be sustained engagement of statutory services; in particular local health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Children's services; Local Children's Safeguarding Boards (LSCB) have an important role to play in making this happen.

      12.  Based on this review, the YJB's work with its partners on safeguarding going forward will focus on these six areas:

      —  setting clear safeguarding principles based on a "child first, offender second" approach to safeguarding;

      —  developing clear expectations for leadership, staff practices, information and case management, young people's participation and partnership working;

      —  strengthening and co-ordinating our approach to performance monitoring;

      —  developing opportunities for secure establishments to access information and share good practice about safeguarding;

      —  further improving the built environment; and

      —  conducting reviews of policy and practice relating to key issues, including complaints processes.

      13.  In addition YJB is committed to regular surveys of young people in YOIs through the HM Inspectorate of Prisons in order to understand the views of children and young people and we will look to extend these surveys to young people in STCs and SCHs. There are also on-going independent advocacy services that provide children and young people in custody with an independent voice.

      14.  The YJB is committed to supporting continuous improvement in the arrangements for behaviour management in the secure estate, including the oversight and minimisation of the use of restraint. The YJB welcomed the Independent Review of Restraint and we are committed to acting on the recommendations of the review addressed to the YJB set out in the government response. We will also support the work of other partners in taking forward actions in their areas of responsibility and expertise as set out in the response.

      15.  As part of this work the YJB will:

      —  update our code of practice which sets out guidance on systems and processes for managing behaviour and ensure that it is embedded in the day to day working practices of establishments;

      —  support and enable establishments to learn from incidents of restraint and to use these lessons to minimise the incidence of restraint;

      —  take forward findings from reviews into the use of restorative justice and the pilot of Therapeutic Crisis Intervention in Hassockfield STC to help NOMS in developing a holistic approach to behaviour management as part of the implementation of the Independent Review of Restraint;

      —  act on recommendations coming out of review of existing practices for separation and full searches due in Spring 2009; and

      —  invest in staff training in the use of behaviour management techniques through our workforce development programme

      16.  As part of the review, we welcome the proposal for the development of a new accreditation system for restraint methods and will be working to support government partners leading on this. In the interim, while this is in development, we will continue to work to support the safety and effectiveness of the current system through our contract and monitoring role. For STCs this work includes funding NOMS to quality assure PCC training and trainers and by operating the exception reporting system to identify and act upon warning signs occurring during restraint.

    REDUCING THE DEMAND FOR CUSTODY AND CUSTODY AS A LAST RESORT

      17.  The YJB fully supports the principle of custody as a last resort for children and young people. Working within the sentencing framework set by government and Parliament, YJB has been involved in a range of work to help minimise the use of custody. This work has included investment in the development of alternatives to custody, notably the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme and working to improve YOT practice to increase the confidence of the courts in community disposals. While the use of custody for under 18s is significantly higher than 10-15 years ago, over the last ten years the numbers have been broadly stable and have not mirrored the sharper rises witnessed in the adult sector. As a proportion of all disposals custody has slightly declined in more recent years. While that is the case we are clear that further work is needed.

    18.  The YJB is continuing to develop this work and supporting the implementation of proposals set out in the Youth Crime Action Plan including the piloting of Intensive Fostering as an additional alternative to custody, work to improve resettlement arrangements to reduce the likelihood of children and young people returning to custody and proposals for local reviews to learn lessons when children are sentenced to custody for the first time.

      19.  The YJB supports measures that are designed to increase local performance and financial incentives around the use of custody, aimed at promoting greater local focus on early invention and investment in alternatives to custody. YJB successfully advocated for a performance indicator on the proportionate use of custody to be included in the new performance framework for local government and its partners Building on this, the Youth Crime Action Plan set out proposals to further incentivise local areas including a proposal for the full costs of Court Ordered Secure Remands to be charged locally. While the YJB believes it is important to keep a national commissioning system to ensure continuing improvements in the estate are driven forward, YJB supports in principle the idea that more of the costs of custody could be devolved to local areas. We are currently investigating the models that could be used to devolve costs and ensure there are clear financial incentives at the local level to promote investment in earlier intervention and alternatives to custody.

      20.  Alongside this YJB will continue to work to improve local practice including looking at patterns of sentencing and the use of custody across different local authorities and use our Youth Justice Planning Framework to challenge and support the contribution of YOTs to reducing the use of custody.

    PREVENTION, DIVERSION AND THE CRIMINALISATION OF CHILDREN

      21.  Working within the framework set by government, the YJB has supported approaches to youth crime that aim to prevent and divert children and young people from entry into the criminal justice system. As part of this approach YJB developed targets for reducing the number of "first time entrants" into the youth justice system. Following a period when there had been increases in numbers, between 2005-08 there was a 10% reduction in first time entrants recorded by YOTs, exceeding the YJB target. The YJB is confident that the figures represent a genuine reduction in the number of children and young people entering the criminal justice system. The YJB strongly supports the Government's ambition announced in the Youth Crime Action Plan to reduce the number of first time entrants by 20% by 2020.

    22.  Over the last 10 years YJB has been involved in a range of work to contribute to reducing the number of children brought into the system. We have developed a range of evidence based targeted prevention programmes including Youth Inclusion Programmes, Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs) and Safer Schools Partnerships. A key objective of all these approaches is to work constructively with children and young people at high risk of being brought into contact with the system before problems escalate. YISPs provide a model for multi-agency planning and intervention with children at risk looking across the range of factors in their lives that have helped put them at risk. The objectives of the programmes are not only to reduce offending but also to help engage and re-engage children and young people in mainstream services that they are entitled to and that are essential for positive outcomes.

      23.  Alongside the development of targeted prevention programmes YJB has also supported the development of new pre-court disposals seeking to intervene constructively with children and young people without the need for the involvement of the courts. YJB has supported ACPO and government departments in the development of the Youth Restorative Disposal (YRD) currently being piloted to provide a restorative and more immediate response to low level offending by children. We have also supported the proposal to introduce conditional cautioning for children and young people, adding another pre-court tier to the system and which may help avoid unnecessary or inappropriate court appearances. Alongside this YJB has advocated a tiered approach to responding to anti-social behaviour by children and young people and has been involved in developing guidance on the role of YOTs in responding to anti-social behaviour.

      24.  The YJB supports an increased role for children's services within the youth justice system. A key strength of YOTs is that they bridge both criminal justice and children's service sectors seeking a balanced approach to the prevention of offending and reoffending. We welcome the government's proposals set out in the Youth Crime Action Plan for increased early intervention and for children's services to better support the youth justice system to address the broad range of needs associated with offending and that hinder positive outcomes for children. The YJB is clear that it is vital that children and young people in the youth justice system receive the services that they are entitled to on the same basis as any other child.

    February 2009





612   A Review of Safeguarding in the Secure Estate, 2008 (YJB, NCB 2008). Back


 
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