The government’s top adviser on youth justice has slammed the “pitiful” funding the Home Office allocates to preventing youth crime.
Rod Morgan, chair of the Youth Justice Board, made the comment last week as he highlighted that just £26m of the board’s £425m budget for 2006-7 was allocated to prevention, tion, compared with £287m to jailing children.
Addressing front-line workers at the National Association of Youth Justice annual conference, Morgan said: “If services were about preventing crime and investing money wisely, we would not be putting such a large amount of expenditure into funding custody.”
He said the board was carrying out a review of its spending, including the amount it spends on youth offending teams and custody.
Morgan also said the number of children in custody, currently around 3,000, was depressing and was close to the record number in prison in 2002.
Morgan revealed that he had not met John Reid since he became home secretary in May, and said youth justice was “not at the top of the [Home Office] in-tray”. But he warned that youth justice could become a “focal point” for any future home secretary if failings occurred.
Morgan cited the case of Damien Hanson and Elliot White, who murdered John Monckton while on probation in November 2004, which led to damning criticism of the probation service by the government earlier this year. “Youth justice could move to the top of the in-tray without warning – all we need is another case like Hanson and White.”
Morgan also pledged support for front-line workers, adding: “When the shit hits the fan, we can say we did what was reasonable in the light of all the evidence available to us.”