‘Looked after' status not beneficial for all children on remand, claims ADCS

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Plans to class under-18s remanded to custody as "looked after" could prevent practitioners working in the best interests of young people, the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has warned.

The proposals, designed to provide extra support for children on remand, will come into effect within the next year after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act received Royal Assent yesterday.

But the ADCS has raised fears that “looked after” status may not benefit all children and that adhering to statutory guidance on looked-after children while a child is in custody could “create problems” for practitioners.

ADCS vice-president Andrew Webb said discussions with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) are ongoing over the detail of the changes.

He said that while the ADCS “fully supports” the notion of planning for a young person leaving custody, doing it through the looked-after children process may not be the best option in each case.

“The care approach for older young people isn’t necessarily the right way of dealing with their needs,” Webb told CYP Now.

“Self-determination comes in and it is more about providing them with resilience to succeed on leaving custody.

“If you have a 14-year-old on a five-month remand I would 100 per cent agree that they should be afforded the same approach to care planning as a child in care.

“But 17-year-olds on remand for four weeks, is it the same deal that you need to be looking at?”

Webb added that statutory regulations around looked-after children throw up a number of potential issues that could lead to practitioners being duty bound to attempt to tackle issues that cannot be addressed – such as whether custody is an "appropriate" place for them.

“There is an awful lot to do before we can implement this, “ Webb said.

“Conversations with the MoJ and YJB have been productive but we haven’t actually got to the point where there are concrete proposals on the table that we can dissect.

“We are potentially talking about creating problems in implementing regulations, putting people at risk of breaching statutory duties if these things are unworkable.

“We don’t want to end up in a farce of judicial review.”

The Local Government Association has previously raised concerns about the changes, citing cost and bureaucracy as key issues.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the reforms contained in the Laspo Act will "strengthen our work to cut crime, protect the public and ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent where it is most needed and most effective".

The measures in the bill will be enacted in stages over the next year.

 

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