Do children in prison matter? That was the question up for debate
at Community Care‘s fringe meeting with the Children’s
Society at the Labour party conference. Not surprisingly the answer
was a clear “yes”. But what do we make of Home Office minister Paul
Goggins? He told the meeting that as a social worker he ran a
community project to keep young offenders out of custody. He
claimed he challenged the system. But now he is part of that system
and has the power to change it, is he doing enough?
The minister says he wants to learn from mistakes. So why has he
refused to hold a public inquiry into the death of Joseph Scholes?
Community Care believes there should be a public inquiry
every time a child dies in custody.
Meanwhile, the minister made no secret of the fact that the move
away from local authority children’s homes to more use of secure
training centres and young offender institutions was largely
cost-driven. He also failed to dismiss claims that the juvenile
estate may be privatised. Goggins seems genuine in his desire to
improve the youth justice system. But surely introducing the profit
motive by privatising YOIs really isn’t the way forward.