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Tragic deaths in custody point to a system in need of reform

Five young people in custody died in the space of just 33 days during March and April. The tragedies mark an exceptionally horrific spell in the youth prison system. To put it in context, no more than five teenagers have died in custody during any entire year since 2005, when the figure was nine.

Riot response requires long-term solutions, not knee-jerk policies

The violence across English cities this month triggered its own riot - of condemnation, debate and knee-jerk policy pronouncements. In the days that followed the first outbreak in Tottenham, an exercise in national soul searching took place through the media. Yours truly, for one, did the breakfast TV paper review on Sky News.

Progress in joint working must go on

The decision last week to strip the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) of government funding will inevitably raise concerns that any genuine "development" of the workforce will stall. A plan for how the Department for Education intends to take forward the quango's work is yet to be articulated.

Editorial: A backward step for youth justice

The new government's decision to give the Ministry of Justice sole responsibility for youth justice in England and Wales is massively misguided. It ends a three-year spell where responsibility was shared with the former Department for Children, Schools and Families. During that time, as it happens, the youth prison population declined from 2,927 in March 2007 to 2,207 in March 2010.

Abolition of YJB is difficult to justify

The government's decision to scrap the Youth Justice Board (YJB) in last week's "bonfire of the quangos" is bewildering. In recent years, since the welcome demise of New Labour's Respect agenda, the YJB has helped to reduce first-time entrants to the criminal justice system and the youth custody population has come down.

Hidden costs of payment-by-results

We are in an age of austerity where outcomes are critical. So it is difficult to take issue in raw principle with the government's desire to commission more public services on a payment-by-results basis.

It's time to respect children's rights

You wait ages for one 20th anniversary, then three come along at once. We've just marked the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 Children Act. And this week it is 20 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into existence.

The next commissioner needs bite

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has fired the starting gun to recruit a children's commissioner for England to succeed Sir Al Aynsley-Green early next year.

Focus of spending must be balanced

It's official: the UK spends more money on child welfare and education than the average market economy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report out last week, we spend just over 90,000 per child from birth to 18 compared to an OECD average among 30 member countries of just under 80,000.

Cost of custody should be devolved

The current system of placing children in prison operates under a perverse financial incentive. Local authorities, which are responsible for a range of prevention and early intervention work to divert the young from crime, are essentially rewarded for their failures. If children are sentenced to custody, they no longer pick up the tab for their welfare.

Prevention, not detention, must come first

Children's Secretary Ed Balls last week told CYP Now that he wants to "strengthen the role the youth justice system can play in preventing youth crime." His words were welcome. But they need to be backed up with action.

Resilience prevails amid Osborne's bleak choices

Like a piercing, bitter English winter, Chancellor George Osbourne's "autumn statement" was eye-wateringly harsh. It is, without doubt, children and young people growing up in the most deprived households who are being asked to bear the brunt.

Shhh... Every Child Matters lives on

Watch out, the language police are about. An internal Department for Education memo lists 30 terms the government wants consigned to history, and the words that should be used in their place. Many relate directly to children's services.

Young people in custody matter too

A government-commissioned review into the use of restraint in the youth prison system reported last December that force must be used as a "last resort".

Outstanding challenge for Ofsted

Ofsted-bashing has been on the rise for several months. Cries of exasperation over the way the children's services inspectorate goes about its business have come in fits and starts from all quarters.

Embarrassing custody rates require creative solutions

The high number of young people held in youth custody in England and Wales has been a cause of national embarrassment. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has quite rightly raised concerns at the levels of young people held in our youth jails in its recent reports. Despite impressive reductions in recent years, more than 2,000 under-18s were in custody in May.

Steps towards child-friendly justice

The Council of Europe is drawing up guidelines on child-friendly justice for member states, as we reveal this week. They cover not just the youth justice system but all elements of justice, from the family courts to care proceedings.

Editorial: A tough decade for the youth justice system

The youth justice system is under heightened scrutiny as we approach the tenth anniversary of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, which created the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) alongside local youth offending teams (YOTs).

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