Criminal Justice Bill: Lords cast doubt on intensive foster care

Government plans to place young offenders in council-run intensive foster care will fail unless the scheme is properly funded, peers have warned.

The scheme, which is being piloted in three counties, would be rolled out under proposals in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.

Too expensive
In a House of Lords committee debate on the bill this week, Lord Kingsland said the scheme was “very expensive” and asked whether councils would be able to fund it.

He claimed implementation would depend on whether councils were “relatively wealthy” or “believed in” intensive fostering, resulting in a postcode lottery.

The Tory peer said: “It appears that a court cannot impose a fostering requirement without consulting the local authority, so there will be a financial incentive for the local authority to say that they are not in a position to provide intensive fostering facilities. The consequence might well be that the child will end up in custody.”

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Linklater of Butterstone argued that it was “pointless” to introduce the scheme unless the resources were available.

Speaking for the government, Labour peer and whip to the Ministry of Justice Lord Bach predicted the scheme would not involve a large number of children.

He cited previous evidence given to the Commons by the Local Government Association where councils indicated resources would be “sufficient” for the scheme.

Positive findings
Bach also said the initial findings from the Youth Justice Board-funded pilots, due to end in October, were positive adding: “Let us see how the pilot projects do and let us hope that we can move this programme forward as fast as possible.”

Intensive fostering would be one of a range of options under a new generic community sentence for young offenders being proposed in the bill. 

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill continues its passage through parliament.

More information

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

House of Lords debate

Related articles

Plans for new youth sentences on table

Butler-Sloss: Social workers must have bigger role in youth justice

Special report: Intensive fostering

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