YJB chair signals early intervention drive

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has said that persuading police and crime commissioners of the importance of funding early intervention work will be one of his immediate priorities.

Lord McNally said YOTs have to work harder to attract resources in light of greater competition for funding. Picture: UK Parliament
Lord McNally said YOTs have to work harder to attract resources in light of greater competition for funding. Picture: UK Parliament

Lord McNally, who became YJB chair last month following his appointment in December, told members of the justice select committee that the creation of powerful policing commissioners has had a significant impact on local youth offending teams (YOTs).

Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are now responsible for deciding how tens of millions of pounds that previously went directly to YOTs is now spent.

“The pattern of funding is changing,” McNally told MPs. “It is more local, there is less of it, and there is more competition for those sparse resources. That is going to mean a change of emphasis for the YJB.

“One of my jobs will be to get to see police and crime commissioners to emphasise to them that early intervention money is money well spent. It would be a great pity if early intervention was lost because of the change in source of funding.

“My impression is the police themselves now understand that a strategy which puts young people off of the criminal justice system and into restorative measures to address identifiable issues are all money well spent.”

He added that the YJB is keen to speak with YOTs to make sure they are “working smarter” to access the funding they need from local authorities, government departments and PCCs, to do the work they want to do.

“I think now across Whitehall there is a buy-in to the fact that money spent up front to prevent young people getting into the criminal justice system is money well spent in terms of diversion.”

In a wide-ranging session, McNally also criticised the way the government attempted to abolish the YJB in the “bonfire of the quangos”.

As a government minister in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), it was McNally who had previously put forward the government's case for abolition of the YJB in the House of Lords prior to a last minute U-turn in the face of opposition to the move.

But McNally told MPs he did not agree with the move.

“I don’t think it would take a lot of investigation to find I wasn’t totally in agreement with [the YJB being abolished],” he said. "But that is what happens in government sometimes. I was very pleased when the wisdom of parliament prevailed as far as the YJB is concerned.”

He added that the way the decision to abolish the YJB was taken had concerned him.

“What I was worried about was that a group of civil servants who were themselves under threat of possible redundancy because of cuts in the department were deciding on the future of the YJB,” he said.

“It didn’t seem to me to be a healthy way of going about things – that people who were themselves uncertain about their jobs were deciding the future of an organisation.”

But he said he is keen to ensure a good relationship between the YJB and MoJ.

“One of the things I’m determined to do is make sure the links with the Ministry of Justice are constructive and collegiate,” he said.

“The MoJ is not the enemy and I want the MoJ to be clear that we are not the enemy. We are working together and sharing a lot of the same objectives.

“But the reason we were made an arms-length body is still valid in terms of our ability to take an overview of a very particular part of the criminal justice system that could be swamped if it was simply subsumed into a larger oversight.”

McNally also revealed that he wants to create a forum for young offenders to have their say on the criminal justice system and the work of the YJB.

He said: “I want to get better lines of communication to listen and get the opinions of young people. We already do that but I think we can do more.

“The difficulty is that if you set up a young people’s panel you often get young people who are never going to come into contact with the criminal justice system.

“So I want to look at, and take advice on, how we can get into dialogue with some of the young people who do.”

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