Support Youth Justice

One of the success stories of the past decade has been the reduction in the number of young people held in custody, both on remand and after sentencing. Sadly, with the present increase in ‘knife’ crime that trend may well be reversed over the coming few months.

Perhaps the increase in violent crime might have been reduced in scale had the Funding to help local authorities keep young people away from crime and re-offending not been halved since 2010. Youth justice grants, which fund council youth offending teams, have been reduced from £145m in 2010-11 to £71.5m in 2018-19, according to the Local Government Association. Furthermore, even though councils have already set their budgets for 2019-20, they are still awaiting their allocations for youth justice grants, thus, according to the Local Government Association, making it “extremely difficult” to plan services aimed at preventing gangs and violent crime.

Now it stands to reason that although the number of young people entering the youth Justice system is sharply down on the terrible days of the Labour government – by some 86% for the drop in first time entrants to the youth justice system – again according to the Local Government Association, many already in the system may be continuing to reoffend. . https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/03/youth-offending-team-funding-halved?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_term=

Cutting the grant for Youth Justice Services seems like another short-sighted attempt to save cash, where it may have actually had the opposite result in practice. Youth offending teams cannot devise schemes to held reduce re-offing, especially among what used to be termed ‘persistent young offenders’ if they no longer have the funds to do their work.

So, here is a suggestion. Any secondary school with more than 8% of its current annual revenue grant held in reserves and also with an above average figure for permanent exclusions across years 10 and 11 and any off-rolling of pupils in those years for pupils with SEND should have 50% of the excess of their reserves above the 8% level removed by the government and reallocated to the local Youth Offending Team.

Yes, the suggestion is crude, and if it catches any genuine cases, then the local Youth Offending Team can work with those schools to reallocate the funds to appropriate programmes.

This is a one-off short-term solution to allow government, in this time of policy paralysis, to find a better long-term solution to the increase in crime among teenagers and the cash to support new programmes over the longer-term.

At present, although more schools are reporting deficits, some have put money aside for a rainy day in a prudent manner, these latter group of schools would only be affected under these proposals if they had also shifted the burden of educating some challenging pupils onto others.

Cash in reserves is sterile public money, and with a need to deal with the present increase in violent crime, something needs to be done and quickly. Of course, if the government can find new cash in the Spring Statement my solution won’t be necessary.

 

 

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Crime and a lack of learning

During the summer, the Ministry of Justice published a report called ‘A Sporting Chance: An Independent Review of Sport in Youth and Adult Prisons’ by Professor Rosie Meek. You can access the report at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733184/a-sporting-chance-an-independent-review-sport-in-justice.pdf

I have only just caught up with reading the report, but what struck me forcibly was the following paragraph:

Those in custody are likely to have disrupted and negative experiences of learning prior to incarceration, and to lack confidence in their learning abilities. A recent data-matching exercise between the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education* showed that of the young people sentenced to custody in 2014, 90% have a previous record of persistent absence from school and almost a quarter of those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody have been permanently excluded from school. In terms of achievement, only 1% of those sentenced to less than 12 months achieved 5 or more GCSES (or equivalents) graded A* – C including English and Maths. Furthermore, illustrating the over-representation of people who have been in both the care system and the criminal justice system, 31% of those sentenced to custody for 12 months or longer, and 27% of those sentenced to custody for less than 12 months had been in the care of a local authority.

* MoJ/DfE (2016). Understanding the Educational Background of Young Offenders: Joint Experimental Statistical Report from the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education.

There is a powerful message here to schools that don’t have a credible policy for dealing with their challenging pupils, other than excluding them from school. We need to work together for the good of society. The DfE needs to ensure there is a coherent curriculum, including English and mathematics, but not necessarily the rest of the English Baccalaureate for pupils that can use these subjects to retain their place as learners. There is a space for sport and other non-classroom based subjects in the curriculum.

The message that education is for all also needs to be firmly inculcated at the start of all teacher preparation courses. Perhaps the Secretary of State might like to break with tradition and issue a message of hope and encouragement to all starting on their journey to become a teacher this September. With his background on the Education Select Committee and work with the APPG, the Secretary of State is well placed to remind new entrants, and indeed the whole profession, of the need to provide as teachers and school leaders for the needs of all our young people.

Happily, we no longer lock up more than 3,000 under-18s, as was the case a decade ago, but even a thousand is too many. It is clear that finding ways of investing in all our young people can help reduce offending and alienation. As I have said before on this blog, a start could be made by ensuring all young people taken into care do not suffer a break in their education. A place on roll of an education institution within fourteen days of being taken into care should be the requirement for all and schools should be willing to cooperate.