David Hanson launches youth justice unit to unify sector policy

Youth justice minister David Hanson this week launched a government unit to take charge of policy across the sector, accountable to the Ministry of Justice and Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The youth justice unit, launched at the annual Youth Justice Convention, cements the two departments’ joint responsibility for the sector, announced in June in the wake of Gordon Brown’s accession as prime minister.

However, since then there have been reports of clashes between children’s secretary Ed Balls and justice secretary Jack Straw over the future of the Youth Justice Board, which the new unit will take responsibility for.

In a speech to the convention yesterday, Balls said the unit would deploy 30 staff from the two departments and be led by MoJ official Diana Luchford, formerly head of the ministry’s youth justice and children unit.

He said: “The scale of the challenges of youth offending can’t be addressed by the criminal justice system alone but the full range of children’s services.”

Ed Balls also announced the DCSF would consult on giving councils responsibility for the education of young people in custody, in line with councils’ current responsibilities over the education of children in the community.

The DCSF said there was currently wide variation in the content of the curriculum across the secure estate, institutions had difficulties meeting special educational needs and Ofsted had reported that basic numeracy and literacy teaching was “often poor”.

Currently, the Learning and Skills Council is responsible for commissioning education in young offender institutions, secure training centres commission education providers themselves, while secure children’s homes either directly provide education or commission it out.

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