Councils will be expected to fund social worker posts in young offender institutions from 2009, the government said this week as it confirmed the future of the scheme.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families agreed £800,000 of “transitional” funding for the posts in 2008-9, after which councils are expected to pick up the tab.
The posts in all 25 YOIs in England and Wales were created three years ago by the Youth Justice Board but were dogged by funding uncertainty beyond this March. In August last year, an investigation by Community Care found that 10.5 of the posts were vacant as practitioners left because of funding doubts.
The YJB said 10 of the 25 posts were now vacant and that it intended to recruit to ensure a “full contingent”.
Children’s minister Beverley Hughes (pictured) said: “The government is fully committed to meeting the needs of young people in custody. Social workers in young offender institutions play a vital role in helping some of our most vulnerable young people.”
She said the DCSF would work closely with all parties to ensure councils could pick up the funding.
John Coughlan, joint president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, welcomed the announcement but warned councils could face resource pressures if the number of children in custody – currently about 3,000 – did not fall.
He added: “We are concerned about the simple expectation on local authorities to pick up the funding in future years, given the sheer numbers of children being placed in YOIs. There is a case for further dialogue with the government to agree a long-term approach.”
Coughlan also said councils would look closely at an evaluation of the scheme by charity NCB, which is expected to be published later this year. Prison service head of women and young people’s policy Jeremy Whittle told Community Care in November that the evaluation was “very positive”.
John Kemmis, chief executive of charity Voice for the Child in Care, which provides advocacy for children in custody, applauded the extension of the scheme but said councils needed to ensure “consistent” funding.
“Social workers are not going to hang around if they can get another good job with guaranteed funding elsewhere,” he said.
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