Vulnerable young boys with mental health problems or at risk from
self-harm have been placed in unsuitable secure accommodation while
other young offenders have missed out on vital education because of
pressures on the juvenile secure estate, a National Audit Office
report warns this week.
Limited spare capacity in the estate, particularly in south-east
England and in Wales, resulted in 2,400 transfers between
establishments between April 2002 and January 2003. Capacity
problems also resulted in more vulnerable boys than usual being
placed in young offenders institutions.
The auditor general, Sir John Bourn, warned that transfers could be
“unsettling” for young people, “breaking developing relationships
with those responsible for their supervision and disrupting
educational and other programmes that are intended to help prevent
The NAO calls on the Youth Justice Board to develop clearer plans
for the future of the custodial estate, including the type and
location of establishments. It adds that, if transfers are
necessary, the YJB and Prison Service should take into account
which offenders have engaged best with their sentence plans as well
as their age, sex and vulnerability.
The report adds that, following release, offenders engaged in
education often fail to continue programmes because of problems
finding suitable courses, a reluctance by some young people to
attend, and difficulties persuading schools to accept
Youth offending teams have also experienced difficulties finding
accommodation for young people and many young offenders are still
uncertain where they will live the night before their
The NAO urges the Home Office, alongside other government
departments, the YJB and local authorities, to ensure all agencies
work together to provide mainstream education, housing, social
services and health for this group.
In a simultaneously published report, the Audit Commission
highlights “considerable improvement” made in the youth justice
field, including the introduction of the community-based intensive
supervision and surveillance programme.
However, the report suggests that court time should be freed up to
focus on serious and persistent young offenders, with more minor
offences being dealt with by youth offender panels.
The commission calls for early intervention, for greater use of
ISSP as an alternative to custody, and for YOTs and courts to
improve public awareness about youth crime and achievements in the