Local authorities are to take on a duty to lead on the education and training of young offenders as part of the government’s Youth Crime Action Plan.
The plan pushes for more involvement from councils in tackling youth crime, including driving down the number of young people entering custody.
It proposes making local authorities reponsible for the full cost of court-ordered secure remand with the aim of persuading them to increase investment in alternatives such as fostering. Currently, authorities are responsible for the placement and one-third of secure remand costs.
Other measures include placing a formal duty on councils to review cases where children go to jail to “learn the lessons” and look at whether the custody could have been avoided by earlier intervention.
It also outlines measures including increasing the take-up of parenting orders alongside Asbos, expanding family intervention projects, and more funding for intensive fostering pilots and resettlement and aftercare for children leaving custody.
Campaigners expressed disappointment that the government had rejected a previous proposal to transfer the youth custody budget to local authorities. But they welcomed other measures including expansion of restorative justice schemes and youth provision.
Martin Narey (pictured), chief executive of Barnardo’s and a former prison service head, said the plan would fail to impact on the high numbers of children in custody.
“While it is commendable that this plan focuses on prevention and the need to provide better support for children leaving custody, the government has wrecked very high expectations that they would not leave the Youth Justice Board with the main responsibility of paying for custody. There is an overwhelming case for incentivising local authorities and resourcing them to divert their children from prison,” he added.
Frances Crook (pictured), director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “After a long wait for the government’s latest thinking on youth crime, it must be said that the proposals before us today have ducked an opportunity for radical and lasting reform of youth justice – in particular in expanding the role of local government.”
The ‘Youth Crime Action Plan doesn’t go far enough’ See blog by Penelope Gibbs of the Prison Reform Trust