The AYM is pleased that the long awaited report, following the national review of youth justice provision in England and Wales by Charlie Taylor, has now been published. The government’s response to the recommendations within the report demonstrates a commitment to improving youth justice provision, particularly in the secure estate, whilst recognising that children who offend are a complex group of individuals with significant needs of their own. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-the-youth-justice-system
An increased focus on improving the health, mental health and education for young people in custody is something the AYM fully supports. Whilst the AYM would wish to see fewer young people incarcerated it recognizes that some will require support outside normal community provision in order to protect others. It is therefore pleased to see that changes to the type of provision provided will commence with 2 pilots, providing an opportunity to review at an early stage the effectiveness of the new provision and its ability to safeguard those young people whilst they are detained.
The government’s promise to provide a £15 million boost to frontline staffing for youth custody to improve safety, and to provide dedicated officers to oversee the progress of young people is also welcomed.
The AYM is also pleased to see that the government is looking to establish a clear set of standards to support this; the appointment of a Head of Operations is seen by the AYM as providing governance to this framework. The AYM is keen to understand better their plans to strengthen inspections for custodial settings and to provide a power to the inspectorate to require another body to manage an establishment found to be significantly underperforming.
Of particular importance is the government’s recognition of the importance of the Youth Justice Grant in helping to formulate and support youth justice provision, and the willingness of the government to build on the success of youth offending teams, delivered flexibly in order to meet the local needs. However, the AYM would be concerned if the review of Charlie Taylor’s proposals compromised the statutory multi-agency composition of youth offending teams which has been at the heart of the excellent performance in safeguarding young people and the community, reducing custody and re-offending by young people. The AYM is keen to offer support to the planning of any improvements to what is already a highly successful system.
Work with the police and the judiciary to ensure young people entering and progressing through the criminal justice system are safeguarded and provided with all necessary support and safeguards is also welcomed. This announcement, on the same day as the announcement of the Bar Standards Board to improve advocacy standards in youth court proceedings, suggests that the experience of children and young people in the criminal justice system will be improved significantly.
The AYM is particularly pleased to hear from the minister that the Government will work with the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and Youth Offending Teams to implement change. The success of the last 16 years in youth justice provision is something that is unsurpassed in public service delivery and it is pleasing to hear that those that have effected such significant improvements to the lives of young people and their communities will be included in future planning.