Public and professionals’ dismay at ‘get tough’ message on youth crime

New Labour and Conservative promises to “get tough” on youth
crime are significantly out of step with the views of both
professionals and the public, new Community Care research has

Despite home secretary Charles Clarke’s latest call for Asbo
recipients over the age of 10 to be routinely named and shamed, a
survey of more than 600 professionals working with young offenders
found nine out of 10 believed that the political debate focuses too
much on punishing young offenders, rather than tackling the causes
of their offending.

It also revealed that 99 per cent of workers believed that neglect,
abuse or bereavement were “significant factors” in young offenders’

In a separate survey of nearly 2,000 people from across the UK 87
per cent believed that tackling young people’s social problems
early would prevent offending.

Both studies were conducted as part of Community Care’s Election
2005 campaign, which aims to get social care on the agenda in the
run up to the expected general election.

A report commissioned from youth crime expert John Pitts as part of
the same campaign suggests that recent policies on youth crime have
failed to address young offenders’ social needs by focusing too
heavily on appearing tough on crime.

Youth justice has been “treated separately” from debates about
children’s services and confined to Home Office policies, the
findings show.

His report also reveals that the government’s “over-emphasis” on
curbing the criminality of young offenders has “eclipsed the
question of their social needs”.

It highlights key failings of the government’s track record
including longer custodial sentences for young people, “record”
levels of self-harm in custody, and growing numbers of children
placed in institutions despite being seen as “too vulnerable” for

Pitts also says that policies including antisocial behaviour
legislation have led to children with no prior criminal offences
entering penal institutions in growing numbers.

  • John Pitts’ report, which launches Community Care’s campaign
    this week, calls for a wider debate on youth justice and youth
    crime and a “change in political culture”.

Combating the point-scoring
Community Care is campaigning to raise the profile of
social care in the run-up to the general election.

We have commissioned four reports on youth crime and justice, care
of older people, inclusive education, and the social care workforce
and have canvassed our readers’ views.

These reports are being launched at parliamentary briefings
attended by MPs, social care leaders and the media. The briefings
will inform politicians and journalists about the central place of
social care in political debate. The reports and research findings
will be published in full in the magazine over the next four weeks.
Readers can get involved by going to

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