Youth justice may eventually be brought within the remit of the
Department for Education and Skills, children’s minister
Margaret Hodge has indicated.
In her first speech since her appointment, at a Local Government
Association conference, Hodge was asked about young offenders being
separated off from mainstream children’s services.
She said this was not the intention. “Many of the services
offered by the Home Office are working well and in the short term
it would have been unhelpful to move them.
“It may well be that over time we go further, but this is a huge
chunk we’ve bitten off. Let’s get this right and make
sure we are able to deliver integrated services.”
Hodge is heading a new directorate in the DfES which includes
Sure Start and early years, the Children and Young People’s
Unit and Children’s Fund, Connexions and youth work, the
careers services, child protection and children in care, parent
support services, family law, Cafcass and the court welfare
service, homelessness and social exclusion among young people and
One objective of the new unit was the mainstreaming into all
services of the lessons of targeted programmes such as Sure
“The opportunities we are developing for some children must be
available for all children,” said Hodge. “That is partly about
resources but it is also about all of us changing the way we work
and changing the way we use resources.”
She added that the cultural changes demanded of professionals to
work in these new ways was challenging and acknowledged the role of
training in helping to embed change in the workplace. “We must
value the different strengths of different professional
backgrounds, but recognise the importance of multi-agency
delivery,” she said.
Hodge hinted that the green paper on children’s services
would propose a children’s commissioner for England.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already established such
She apologised for the disappointment caused by the delay to the
green paper but said the fact that the prime minister wanted to be
personally involved in its launch was “a very good thing”.
The official explanation for the delay to the paper until after
the summer recess is that Tony Blair wishes to be personally
associated with it, and would be “standing beside” Hodge when it
was lodged. His commitments made this impossible before
parliament’s summer recess, which began on 17 July. But it
has also been said that the DfES asked for the delay because they
wanted to make a bigger contribution to the draft.