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 https://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 (https://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.
The Youth Justice (YJ) system has enjoyed immense success since the creation of Youth Offending Teams. For example, the number of young people entering the YJ system has dropped dramatically, and the number of young people in custody has also dropped dramatically.
We heard that the publication of the MoJ’s review of the youth justice system has been brought forward and agreed to write to Charlie Taylor, who is leading the review.
See letter below
From the Chair of the Association 10 June 2016 To Charlie Taylor, Ministry of Justice Review of the Youth Justice System
We were sorry you were unable to join us at our AGM this week but fully understand the reasons for this. With nearly 50 of our members all in one place we used the opportunity to think about the key messages that we would want you to hear from YOT managers as you prepare to publish your review.
Firstly we wanted to say that we have appreciated the way you have set about your task; you have taken the time and trouble to meet many of our members and their partnership boards, and, most importantly, you have gone out of your way to listen to the voices of young people who are caught up in the justice system. Thank you.
We know that you have given a great deal of attention to the secure estate, and we do not propose to say a great deal about that part of the youth justice system, other than to repeat our long held view that rehabilitation is most effective if the small number of young people who must be detained are kept in small secure units, staffed by well-trained people who are committed to working for positive change in young people. Ideally, such units should be close enough to the young person’s home for family contact to be maintained.
We want to focus on the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, and on what we see as the four pillars on which the delivery of youth justice services stand: the YOT, the YOT manager, the YOT steering group and the national coordination of the system via the Youth Justice Board. We have heard that someone has described the 1998 Act as a “straightjacket” from which the system needs to be liberated. We do not agree. Of course the legislation needs to be updated to take account of issues such as the large rise in out-of-court disposals and the current trend for devolution of responsibilities to local areas. But please do not be tempted to undermine the four pillars of the system, lest the whole edifice comes crashing down.
Youth Offending Teams
Dealing first with the concept of the YOT, we heard this described by an eminent professor at our AGM as: “The best example of multi-agency and multi-professional working – a remarkable success story in reducing crime and criminalisation, showing humanity, care and compassion within a context of control and containment”. We are proud of this assessment, and of the well-documented achievements of YOT partnerships in reducing first-time entrants to the system and reducing the use of custody. We take the view that the concept of the YOT has been one of the best pieces of public
sector reform of this century, and established a model which many others parts of health and social care have sought to copy.
A number of our members have been around long enough to remember the youth justice system of the 1980’s and 90’s. There were some good people doing some very good work, but this was fragmented and inconsistent. There was a strong sense of there being “injustice by geography”. One member described youth justice at the time as “a Cinderella issue managed by Cinderella services”. Our anxieties about greater devolution are that partner agencies may feel freer to withdraw their best staff from YOTs; case transfers between YOTs will be become more difficult as services’ offerings become more diverse, and it will become as difficult to compare the quality and effectiveness of services as to compare apples with pears.
Please think about how the YOT model can be further strengthened by tying partners in more tightly with their financial and staffing contributions. Think also about how the model could be extended to include young adults aged 18- 24, given the inadequacies in services currently offered to this age group as well as the important research into brain development in late adolescence. Extending the remit of YOTs to age 25 would be in line with the new code for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities; it would also be in line with the intended changes to “leaving care” support for Looked after Children which the current plans are also to extend to 25.
The YOT Manager
YOT managers are key in providing leadership to a team or service of professional staff drawn from many different backgrounds. Many of us take on additional responsibilities in areas such as safeguarding boards and local criminal justice boards. Some provide leadership to other multi agency services within their areas. We believe it is important that YOT managers are inspirational leaders who are competent to manage public protection, safeguarding and retain the confidence of their staff, of young people, of victims of crime, their local communities and the courts. They should not be seen as “belonging” to one agency, such as to a local authority’s children’s services or to the Police and Crime Commissioner, but rather as belonging to the multi-agency partnership.
A straw poll of our members at our AGM suggested that over 80% now come from social work background. In 2000, a greater number would have been drawn from other professions, notably from probation and police. We find this change regrettable and would like to see greater encouragement to all of the YOT partners to identify potential leaders in the future. We believe that new leaders need to be trained and supported in their roles and for the last two years we, as an association, have provided a leadership development programme for “Aspiring Future Youth Justice Leaders”. These programmes have been fully subscribed and the feedback from participants has been exceptionally positive.
The Steering Group
The YOT steering group, now more commonly called a management board or a partnership board, holds the YOT manager to account and, just as importantly, hold each of the partners to account for the contribution each of them is making to preventing offending. The model is a very effective one, but needs some support and nurturing if it is to survive more years of austerity. In a sense these boards have become a victim of their own success; with youth crime now so much lower than in
2000, there is the temptation for partners to send less senior people (or no one at all) to represent them, so that boards become less strategic and less ambitious. Effective partnership boards understand that while they may be dealing with a smaller cohort of children and young people, their needs and the risks they present are more complex, and need ever more sophisticated responses from the agencies around the table.
Our steering groups are wary of some aspects of devolution. They are concerned about the risk of fragmentation and national inconsistency; most steering groups are keen to be able to compare their performance with others. They are keen to improve their YOTs, and we are proud of the role that AYM members are taking in developing the “Peer-led Improvement Process” for YOTs and we plan to continue to develop this.
Management boards have differing views, of course, but many are particularly wary of the devolution of budgets for secure accommodation, as they have limited control over the way the judiciary will require them to spend these budgets.
The Youth Justice Board
It will of course be for the YJB to make its own representations to you about its future. We would just say that without a strong body providing national leadership, the youth justice system will be weaker. We have seen ministerial responsibility for youth justice move from the Home Office to (the then) Department for Children and Families, and to the Ministry of Justice. We do not think it helpful that responsibility rests with one ministry; better for central government to model the kind of cooperative work that it expects to see at a local level. In order to achieve cross-departmental ownership of the youth justice system, we will, in our view, continue to need a body to carry out many of the functions of the YJB.
Two further points in conclusion: firstly, as an association, we stand ready to do even more to help to consolidate the youth justice reforms of the last 18 years. Our resources are limited: we rely on subscriptions from our members of just £150 per annum, plus the small profit we make from our training programme. Our enthusiasm for the youth justice system, however, is unlimited. Secondly, YOTs have been successful in meeting the objectives set for them in spite of their reducing resources. Of course this does not mean we have done the job; future performance will only be achieved if we continue to function. There is a continual flow of new young people to be worked with.
We look forward to continuing this dialogue with you
Lesley Tregear Lesleytregear@warwickshire.gov.uk
At its AGM in Rugby yesterday (9/6/16) Lesley Tregear (Warwickshire Yot) was elected unopposed as the new Chair of the Association succeeding Gareth Jones (Cheshire West, Halton and Warrington Yot) who has stepped down after leading the AYM for the last 4 years. Andy Peaden (Leeds Yot) replaces Lesley as Vice Chair. Both were congratulated by AYM members on their election and sincere thanks given to Gareth Jones for his outstanding leadership of the AYM.
Ian Langley (Hampshire), Joel Hanna (Sheffield) and Terry Gibson (Torbay) respectively remain as Secretary, Asst Secretary and Treasurer. Jessica Edwards (Brighton & Hove Yot) was elected to the AYM Executive for the first time as an Additional Executive Member replacing Davie Parks (Newcastle Yot) who has succeeded Pam Vedhara MBE (South Tyneside) as the AYM’s North East Regional rep. Charlie Spencer (formerly Sandwell Yot) and Amrik Panaser (Oxfordshire) continue as Additional Exec Members.
Former Chair Gareth Jones will remain on the AYM Executive as a non voting Observer.
A powerful partnership between Achievement for All (AfA), the Association of YOT (Youth Offending Team) Managers (AYM) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has been awarded a Department of Education contract to support young people who offend and who have Special Education Needs (SEN).
Over the next 10 months, the partnership will support all front line professionals working in the youth justice system to transform outcomes for young people who offend (or are at risk of doing so), and who have special education needs. A free to use on line resource will be developed by AFA, and the AYM will hold a series of workshops across the country aimed at staff from Youth Offending Teams and the multi-agency professionals who work in partnership with them. MMU will be responsible for developing the research model, informed by interviews and surveys with young people and their families, YOT staff, and wider professional networks, and also for data collection and analysis.
AfA has been at the forefront of workforce development and evidenced-based change management aligned to SEND reforms. AfA Chief Executive and founder Prof Sonia Blandford said “This is a great opportunity for Achievement for All to extend the application of our work to those who the young offenders in need of educational support that will transform their lives. The partnership assembled for this work will ensure that all areas of the country will be covered with detailed delivery, research and follow up communicated freely to the education and support agencies responsible for change. As a pilot project we will be planning to extend our engagement in this area.”
The AYM is the national association in England for the heads of YOTs and those in management positions in YOTs. AYM Chair Gareth Jones said ‘We are delighted to be working in partnership with AfA and MMU as we know that young people with SEN are over represented in the Youth Justice System and believe the work ahead will be of great benefit to YOTS staff and others professionals in the youth justice system and give them the tools to deal more effectively with young people who offend or are at risk of doing so.”
MMU has a long history of involvement both in SEND and the Youth Justice sectors and run one of the largest SEN Co-Ordinators programmes for English Local Authorities. Dr Hannah Smithson and Peter Hick from MMU said “MMU has a long history of involvement both in SEND and the Youth Justice sectors and run one of the largest SEN Co-ordinators programmes for English Local Authorities. This is a very important project. MMU are delighted to be working with AfA and the AYM in a partnership that will see real change for young people in the criminal justice system. It brings together two areas of expertise for MMU – SEND and youth justice, demonstrating MMU’s ability and commitment to knowledge exchange and partnership working within these areas.”