Penal reform campaigners have criticised the Youth Justice Board’s
decision to base social workers full-time inside young offenders
A YJB spokesperson has confirmed that the professionals based in
the institutions would be employed by local authority social
services departments to ensure that the Children Act 1989 was
applying to children in detention.
The board announced in February that from this month it would fund
social workers to work in prisons (news, page 6, 12 February), but
the spokesperson warned “it may take some time to recruit
Pam Hibbert, Barnardo’s principal policy officer, said it was still
unclear who would manage social workers, and warned that without
support from outside the prison it would be difficult for social
workers to challenge any issues detrimental to the child’s
But she added that if there was a wider Children Act role for
social workers, and with outside support and supervision, “these
roles could have a real impact on promoting the welfare of these
Fran Russell, assistant director at the Howard League for Penal
Reform said the point of the move was to bring the Children Act
principles from the community into prisons. The league brought a
case to the High Court in November 2002 which established that
children in young offenders institutions should be protected in the
same way as children in the community.
Russell added that an increased number of prison officers, trained
in the culture and standards of the Act, was also needed as “the
odd social worker here and there won’t make much difference”.
Under the plans, an additional social worker would be appointed for
every 100 juveniles in custody. Some of the smaller establishments
holding fewer than 100 children might not have social workers,
whereas larger institutions would have more than one.
Chris Stanley, head of youth crime at rehabilitation agency Nacro,
said the move was “a positive step” which “can’t do anything but
However, he added that it was vital that the social worker in the
institution had strong links with the local social services
department, the young person’s home social services department and
the youth offending team.