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AYM has responded to the Office for National Statistics consultation on changes to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). The level of funding for the Survey is being reduced, and the consultation was to identify how to achieve cost savings.
AYM does not agree with the reduction in funding for CSEW. If funding is reduced then we favour reducing the response rate and sample size by small amounts. We also disagree with removing the victim module questions, due to the critical nature of victim input to the CJS.
The CSEW provides YOTs with independently verified data which is readily quotable in national and local consultations, and which is sometimes missed by government departments. As such, the Crime Survey for England and Wales is considered to be a far more accurate measure of crime and anti-social behaviour than published police statistics. So in our view it is critical that the CSEW remains valid and accessible in representing the true extent of crime in England and Wales.
The AYM AGM took place in Rugby on the 6th of June. The AGM was well attended with over 40 members present who heard from new Youth Justice Board Chair Charlie Taylor, who stressed that he wanted to work closely with the AYM during his tenure. Members also heard passionate presentations from Marius Frank from Achievement for All (AfA) about the Special Educational Needs work in the youth justice system that AfA and the AYM have been undertaking, Ian Acheson author of the Government report into extremism in the secure estate and Ch Insp Dean Jones, deputising for DCC Karen Manners, National Police Chief’s lead on vulnerability.
Lesley Tregear (Warwickshire) and Andy Peaden (Leeds) were re-elected as Chair and Vice Chair respectively. Matt Bywater (Swindon) and Diz Minnitt (Milton Keynes) joined the AYM Executive. Ben Finley (Barnsley) was confirmed as the new AYM regional representative for Yorkshire and Humberside.
The AYM recently hosted three successful youth crime diversion workshops by the Centre for Justice Innovation in Leeds, Rugby and Winchester. The link below gives details about the content of the three days
AYM views the NICE child abuse and neglect guidelines as positive and well-researched. We raised concerns about the lack of age-specific context in the consultation document, as it appeared to be geared towards younger children. We pointed out that there is a tendency to blame older children for what happens to them (as evidenced in the Rotherham CSE report), which risks not recognising them as children under UNCRC 1989. Other specific points included the need to recognise the speech, communication and language needs of young people, and the need to build and use trusted relationships so that young people feel able to share their experiences of abuse and neglect.
Our consultation response is summarised as follows;
The guidelines suggest that the adult sentencing guideline should be the same irrespective of age. While this is validated by the mitigating factors listed, concerning the age and maturity of the offender, we feel it is critical to raise our concern about recent
research, which suggests maturation and cognitive development in young adults is still happening up to 25 years. See article at http://www.pnas.org/content/113/32/9105.full or BBC News account at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36887224 . So, applying a blanket adult sentencing approach to this age group along with all adult offenders needs some
We also have concerns about youths being treated the same as adults for sentencing purposes, except for a 1/3 or more deduction depending upon age. The need to see children as significantly different is part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children
1988, as well as the need to recognise their maturation and cognitive developments. This approach of a reduction in sentence could be viewed as treating young people as junior adults rather than as children. We are keen to see the right approach to sentencing young people as children first, and as offenders second, managing the risks they pose to themselves and others, but also ensuring meaningful development into responsible adulthood. While there is a need to ensure transitions work effectively, we would repeat the point made in the previous paragraph about young adults’ cognition not being fully developed before the age of 25 years.
However, we do welcome the proposal which states “the youth guideline follows a different structure to the adult guidelines, and does not include starting points or ranges.”
The AYM has an agreed policy statement about the use of custody for young offenders:
“That the punishment of custody for young offenders lies in the loss of liberty itself and therefore should only be used as a last resort and where the public have to be protected. Where young people have to be sent to custody they should be held in
small local secure units close to their home.” See http://aym.org.uk/about-us/where-westand/ .
This approach needs to be at the heart of all custodial decision making, in our view. It is based upon the knowledge that once a young person experiences custody their life chances are seriously adversely affected. This is backed up by many research examples, including the recent Laming Review at http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/ProjectsResearch/CareReview
For a copy of our full response please contact Ian Langley, AYM Secretary e-mail: email@example.com
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.
A ground-breaking new online training programme is being launched which aims to provide the essential support to the many young people with special educational needs (SEN) who are in custody and also those at risk of offending, helping them achieve better outcomes (well-being, education and employment) and substantially reduce their risk of offending or reoffending.
The online learning platform will provide free training and support to every professional in the Youth Justice System to improve practice, reduce offending by young people and improve their educational outcomes.
Funded by the Department for Education, the programme is being delivered by national education charity Achievement for All (AfA), in partnership with the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
Marius Frank, Director at Achievement for All, said: “We have developed a series of innovative modules which sit on a new online learning platform called the Youth Justice SEND Bubble. The modules have been written by frontline professionals for frontline professionals. There is nothing stronger than peer-to-peer learning. It captures the passion and commitment of dedicated professionals, shares existing best practice and develops consistency across the YJS in England.”
Young people with a special educational need are five times more likely to enter the youth justice system, with 18% of sentenced young people in custody having a statement of special educational needs. Additional research shows that up to 90% of young offenders have below average speech, language and communication skills, with up to 67% having language skills which are ‘poor or very poor’.
The majority of these young people have been excluded from school at some point and as a result, have never had their conditions properly diagnosed or addressed. Many of them also suffer family breakdown, trauma, abusive relationships or poverty.
Marius continued: “Rather than be punished, these young people need to be helped, their needs identified and met, and their life chances transformed. Investing in effective early intervention work will also save considerable costs to communities and to government further down the line: it is a win-win-win solution.”
The Youth Justice SEND Bubble will be launched at the Youth Justice Convention in Milton Keynes on 30th November 2016. The online modules are free to access and offer a comprehensive learning environment on legislation, practice and special education needs in the YJS. It is for staff in youth offending, secure estate, health and care, and local authority SEN teams.
AYM have an agreed policy statement about the declaration of convictions (http://aym.org.uk/about-us/where-we-stand/ ) which states;
“Young people moving into adulthood and beyond should not be penalised for having to declare all but the most serious convictions committed as a youth.”
The UN Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) states that “the best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children” (S.3), and that “governments must do all they can to make sure every child can enjoy their rights by creating systems and passing laws that promote and protect children’s rights” (S.4). Also that “governments must do all they can to ensure that children survive and develop to their full potential” (S.6). So the themes are the child’s best interests, rights and potential. In our view, the current criminal record system is not arranged to achieve these things.
Whilst the UNCRC applies to children under 18 years, it is clear that any convictions acquired as a child will have implications for them as adults. The concept of children learning and developing into adulthood was a central part of your report into the Treatment of Young Adults in the CJS published recently. So young people are still developing into early adulthood, and need our support to reach their full potential. Anything which stands in the way of this, such as previous convictions, will act in opposition to this finding.
Children should not be penalised as adults for behaviour which is often a part of growing up, maturation, and finding their way in life. This can include offending behaviour. We would draw your attention to the Wipe the Slate Clean website at http://www.wipetheslateclean.org.uk which shows successful and achieving respectable people unable to stand in public life for child convictions in the distant past.
The number of people in the UK who have criminal records is quoted as 9.2 million (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8580657/Quarter-of-UK-population-will-be-on-new-police-database.html ). This represents a huge proportion of the population who are unable to reach their personal potential, and also unable to reach their potential to contribute fully to society. We are excluding many people from mainstream society and employment, and attaching a stigma to them which is in no-one’s interests. It is also worth noting that although the convictions of foreign nationals can be included in UK records, many are not, and given the proportion of British residents who are born abroad, this could be seen as disadvantaging British people in the employment and wider world. There is also an issue for disadvantaged groups within British society, such as Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) young people. They face daily discrimination, sometimes leading them to criminal behaviour, and yet once they have a conviction their life chances are even worse than before, which again can lead them to further offending to gain status and income.
The issue of which convictions need to be kept on file and declared in perpetuity is pertinent. Our view is that children should not have convictions carried forward into adulthood unless they are of a serious nature. Clearly we would want to ensure that unsuitable people are excluded from caring professions and other similar areas. We have no desire to create addition risk to society by a blanket striking off of all convictions on an individual’s 18th birthday. This would not safeguard other children or vulnerable adults.
So our view is that only the most serious offences should be retained on record into adulthood. By this, we are content with this existing exemption list of professions, and also with the criteria of a custodial sentence of 4 years or more being never spent, as per the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA), as amended by the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
We would wish to see the deletion of criminal records acquired under the age of 18, on reaching that age, with the exception of those most serious offences. This may not be so easy to achieve where children are still offending in the transition to adulthood, so some arrangements may be needed to manage those situations. For example, a period of time between last conviction or end of sentence and them being wiped out, such as 6 months; and if the young person reoffends during that period then the timeline would start again from end of sentence.
‘Young adults’ is a term which varies in legislation. Differing research suggests that adulthood is not something which people reach on their 18th birthday. The care system recognises that Looked After Children (LAC) need support to 21 or 25 depending upon their needs and circumstances. Around 40% of YOT caseloads are LAC, and so represent a significant proportion of young offenders. The current legal system of young adults being treated as fully responsible adults is questionable (as suggested by your recent report), and we would support changes to this along the lines of LAC legislation.
We also believe the age of criminal responsibility is too low in England and Wales, and our Association’s position is that it should be raised to at least 12 years old. Many of our members feel it should be higher. There are other models around Europe where criminal responsibility is much higher than in the UK, some as high as 18. These countries thus allow children to transition to adulthood without the constraints of a criminal record.
Employers have a right to be protected too. However, these rights are not enshrined in law to the extent of children’s rights. There are already effective safeguards in place via ROI for critical roles, which we support. Employers have a right to ask about a person’s background before offering employment, especially in terms of dishonesty and violence, and we need some clarification in law about how far these go to ensure both parties are treated fairly. We quote one example at the end of this submission which shows the need to lie about convictions to get an interview, at which point the person is on the back foot – see below. So some guidance for employers would be useful, ideally enshrined in law so it can be enforced.
We have also provided a number of real life practice examples to the Justice Select Committee and offered to present our views in more depth at an oral enquiry.
On 12th October AYM held a joint conference with the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. Speakers included Prof Shadd Maruna of the University of Manchester, Professor Sarah Soppitt of the University of Northumbria, Fiona Dyer of the University of Strathclyde, and Briege Nugent of the University of Edinburgh. Colleagues from youth offending, academia, and other partners attended.
The latest updates on desistance were aired, along with the recent HMI Probation thematic, and practices in Scotland. The themes of the presentations and discussions will be captured in the AYM November Newsletter, but there were messages about innovation, focusing on individuals in organic ways, changes in offending , and sustainable models to reintegrate young people into their communities and beyond.
So another useful conference for AYM, reducing offending and encouraging young people to succeed.