Proposed changes to youth remand should be delayed by at least a year to allow local authorities to formulate plans to deal with a £7.3m funding shortfall in London alone, council leaders have warned.
London Councils say the changes could lead to a shortfall of £7.3m across its 33 boroughs
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, children on remand will become classified as looked-after from December and financial responsibility for remand will transfer from government to councils in April next year.
The threshold for the use of remand is set to be increased, which government believes will lead to an immediate 15 per cent drop in its use. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is therefore cutting funding to councils in line with this predicted drop.
The government will also stop paying two-thirds of the cost of remands to secure children’s homes and secure training centres, leaving local authorities to pick up the entire bill.
Responding to the MoJ consultation on the plans, Jules Pipe, chair of London Councils, argued that the changes could lead to a shortfall of £7.3m in budgets across the 33 boroughs in the capital.
“While we support the reforms in principle, it is clearly wrong that London, as a region with high levels of youth offending, is bearing the burden of these changes to youth remand,” he said.
“To ease the transition, the government should delay the proposed cut to youth funding by at least a year to allow local authorities sufficient time and resources to develop innovative local solutions to overcome this drop in funding.”
“The government also needs to recognise that removing two-thirds of the funding for secure children’s homes and training centres will leave a real shortfall – as its own figures show.”
Pipe added that reclassifying children on remand as “looked-after” could leave some boroughs facing potential additional shortfalls of up to £500,000 annually.
He warned that the changes must be adequately funded to make sure that boroughs are able to “properly support these vulnerable young people”.