A national tracking system for young people leaving custody needs to be developed urgently to ensure their resettlement needs are met, a children’s charity says.
Carlene Firmin, Barnardo’s new assistant director of policy and research, made the call as the charity launched a new report, No Fixed Abode, which found children as young as 13 are being released from prison without any safe place to go, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness, reoffending and exploitation.
The report claims that the cycle of youth reoffending and homelessness costs as much as £116,094 over three years, and the support it recommends could save the government about £67,000 a child each year. In each of the 4,147 referrals to Barnardo’s concerning young people leaving custody in 2009-10, housing was listed as a top five concern.
“Children leaving custody are extremely vulnerable,” Firmin said. “Some end up homeless or living in hostels and B&Bs. Even when young people go back to their families, there is not enough help and support available to them. This perpetuates a cycle of reoffending and victimisation.
“These gaps in the government’s so-called rehabilitation revolution need to be addressed urgently. There needs to be a centralised way of tracking whether all young people are receiving the support to which they are entitled.”
Barnardo’s is also calling for a national, cross-government strategy on resettlement standards for local authorities and ring-fenced funding for social work posts across the secure estate to help bridge the gap between young offender institutions and local authorities.
“If you’re a young person coming into custody from care, you get a certain level of support,” Firmin said. “If you’re under 16, you get a different level of support. If you’re over 16, it’s a different level again. This leads to confusion over pathway planning. Barnardo’s believes all young people leaving custody require the same level of support, regardless of their age or care status. But this has become a lottery for young people, based on their age, care status and postcode.”
Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo’s chief executive, added: “Surely, if ever there were a case for return on investment this is it.”
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