Former YJB chief blames funding levels for youth custody problems

By Neil Puffett

| 14 March 2017

The former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board has said that a lack of funding from central government is behind increasing levels of violence and safety concerns in youth custody.

John Drew was chief executive of the Youth Justice Board between 2009 and 2013. Picture: Alex Deverill

Writing in the latest edition of CYP Now, John Drew, who was at the helm of the YJB between 2009 and 2014, said a range of changes to the way youth custody is run announced by Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss last month are, in the big scheme of things, "probably less important than the securing of additional funding for custody".

"A major part of the current concerns about safeguarding and the treatment of children in custody is about an estate that has clearly been underfunded for the past several years," said Drew, who is now a senior associate at charity the Prison Reform Trust.

"That is why children are being kept in their cells for too long, in potential breach of their civil rights; that is why there has been a rise of violence in the estate.

"That is why there is a recruitment crisis in filling vacant posts with custody officers who choose to work with children. That is why specialist units have been closed, and that is why there hasn't been enough focus on developing a comprehensive picture of need in the secure estate for children."

Most recent figures show that violence in custody is on the rise and the YJB came in for criticism last year for failing to act on complaints made by young people held at Medway Secure Training Centre, where allegations of abuse were later made.

Liz Truss has said that the YJB will no longer be responsible for commissioning and overseeing the youth secure estate, with a new body being established to take on the role.

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