Youth offending team workers are recommending young people receive custodial rather than community sentences because they fear making mistakes, a practitioner has said.
A Yot manager, who did not give her name, told a seminar at Nacro’s youth crime conference that some teams were blighted by an “anxiety culture” that meant staff were sometimes more likely to recommend custody for young people.
She said: “People are constantly worrying that something terrible will happen and they will lose their jobs. This has a massive impact on staff psyche and the way they deal with young people, making them more punitive because of a fear of serious incidents in the community.”
Chris Stanley, former head of research and policy at Nacro, said he believed many Yot staff were taking a punitive approach and needed to be encouraged to seek community options. He said “practitioner power” in the 1980s had led to fewer young people entering custody, and argued there should be a campaign to win “hearts and minds” towards a similar approach.
Pauline Gibbs, who is leading a five-year strategy for the Prison Reform Trust to reduce the number of young people in custody, said costs were preventing councils placing young people in secure children’s homes. She also called for greater use of alternatives to custody including intensive fostering.
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