Response to youth justice interim report
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I had the privilege of meeting with Charlie Taylor last week who visited Cheshire West, Halton and Warrington Youth Offending Service, an organisation described as high performing by HMI Probation recently. This service, like others, has been praised for working efficiently and collaboratively with somewhat limited use of resources. The National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ) has today published a detailed response to Charlie Taylor’s youth justice review: interim report of emerging findings.
The NAYJ welcome the review especially the focus on addressing key “failures” in the system. Specifically, the NAYJ is in support of a commitment to significantly overhaul and in turn improve how children deprived of their liberty are treated. The proposal to abolish young offender institutions and then to replace them with “secure schools” was welcomed in the response. This type of provision offers the most promise regarding the achieving of significant progress in relation to children and young people, especially with regard to educational attainment but also in relation to health and wellbeing measures.
The response also covered other important matters. It was acknowledged that the extension of the review’s remit to include courts and sentencing is a sensible option. The NAYJ also proposed that a national target is established to reduce the unacceptable over-representation of certain groups, namely looked-after children and those of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the justice system. They praised the focus on education in Charlie Taylor’s report but said that education should be understood in its broadest sense rather than restricted to formal types.
The purpose of the youth justice system as being the prevention of offending should be adapted to incorporate education and healthy development and this reflects a more holistic view. For this aspiration to become a reality, however, the NAYJ argues against the adoption of crude short-term measures of reoffending. This is an important proposal, especially – as I have argued previously in a CYP Now blog – children’s lives are complex, measuring success can be difficult as factors overlap and intersect.
Sean Creaney is an advisor at social justice charity Peer Power