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Custody pathfinder pilots demand new terms

By Neil Puffett

| 09 January 2013

Two groups of local authorities are considering pulling out of a landmark youth custody pilot scheme, unless the terms of the project are amended, CYP Now can reveal.

Perimeter fence at a young offender institution

The YJB wants to make local authorities responsible for youth custody budgets. Image: Phil Adams

The youth justice reinvestment pathfinder scheme – which aims to reduce the use of custody by handing authorities cash upfront to invest in other measures – was originally launched in four sites. Of these four, Birmingham has already pulled out.

A consortium of councils in West Yorkshire has said it will continue with the scheme. The remaining two sites, which involve consortia covering north-east London and west London, were due to decide whether or not to continue with the scheme by the end of last year, but have yet to confirm their plans.

Youth Justice Board chief executive John Drew told CYP Now that talks to try to keep the two consortia involved in the scheme are ongoing, adding that the local authorities involved in the consortia have requested amendments to the current arrangements.

Under the two-year scheme, consortia are not held liable for paying back cash given to them to invest in measures to reduce youth custody, if they pull out a year early.

However, if they continue with the project and fail to meet the two-year custody reduction target, they are required to pay back the money to the Ministry of Justice. This was the reason Birmingham pulled out of the scheme.

Drew said the YJB is keen to stick to the original targets and financial penalties as far as possible, but said the west London and north-east London consortia have both made “proposals to allow them to continue” with the project.

“Both suggest some amendments,” he said. “We are just finalising details with them. The plan is to put that to [youth justice minister] Jeremy Wright and we expect a decision before the end of the month.”

“We wouldn’t wish to depart significantly from the underlying plans and thesis we are testing here, but have said we will look at their proposals,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we will keep one and maybe both of them in the scheme.”

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