Speaking at the annual youth justice convention in Leicester, YJB chief executive Lin Hinnigan said the system in its current form cannot survive further “salami slicing”, suggesting that an ongoing review of the youth justice system, being conducted by former government behaviour adviser Charlie Taylor, offers an opportunity for change.
“Fundamental and radical change to the way youth justice services are delivered is needed,” she said.
“We welcome Charlie Taylor’s review as an opportunity for such radical reform."
Hinnigan said that while it is essential that the best and most successful elements of the present system – such as strong leadership and partnership working combining police, local authorities, health and education services – are preserved, there are other areas that are ripe for change.
She said one of her primary aims when taking over as chief executive of the YJB was to ensure greater integration between custodial and community services to create “one set of services tailored around the needs of the child”.
“It was that which drove me under the previous secretary of state’s transforming youth custody programme to focus on resettlement,” she said.
“[But], I think we should go beyond managing the transition from custody to the community better, to a much more seamless joined-up service for young people.
“The integration of community and custodial services offers opportunities for efficiency, value for money, and most importantly, seamless support and supervision to each child as they pass through the system.
“I think the youth justice review offers us huge opportunities to strengthen that philosophy of integrated services.”
Hinnigan also identified the youth secure estate as an area where the YJB wants to see improvements.
“We see a unique opportunity with current record low levels of young people in custody for a very different pattern of provision in the future,” she said.
“It’s now possible to consider how educational and behavioural needs for this smaller cohort can be met within a more integrated youth justice system – with custodial elements provided more locally. Distinct youth justice provision which is personalised and responsive to each individual's developmental, health and wellbeing needs will be part of an integrated local solution, rather than part of a prison service.
“We recognise that this is a long-term ambition, and it will require investment, but we would like to see the youth justice review help us to move in this direction."
Hinnigan also highlighted plans for regional devolution across England as something that could pose opportunities for reform. She said local communities could take responsibility for assessing the needs of their cohort, and develop a youth justice system that met those needs, potentially gaining financial benefits as a result of sustained investment.
“I want to understand what the appetite is for further devolution of youth justice services,” she said.
In terms of future finances, Hinnigan said that the 15 per cent savings that must be made by the Ministry of Justice by 2020, as outlined by Chancellor George Osborne in the Spending Review yesterday, was "relatively, better than we might have expected".
She added that it is unclear whether the announcement of £1.3bn to modernise the prison estate could potentially be made available to improve the youth secure estate.
“Whether or not there will be some possibilities for money to help the youth justice secure estate, I don’t know.
“Obviously once the department has got its settlement that is the starting point for the bun fight within the department about how that is managed, and we don’t know, obviously, what the impact will be on the youth justice system.”