The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has challenged the government to use current sentencing reforms to ensure all young offenders are given looked-after status, not just those on custodial remand.It follow the news that those young offenders remanded in prison while they await trial are to be given looked-after status as part of sentencing reforms outlined by the government in the Sentencing and Legal Aid Bill.
Andrew Webb, Stockport Council’s director of children’s services and the ADCS’s policy lead on youth justice, said today that the same principle should be applied to all young people in prison, albeit with sufficient funding attached.
“If a young person has been deemed sufficiently needy that they have had their liberty taken away then their ongoing need for support should be acknowledged.
“This should be differentiated from the offence-related support that prison after-care is often reduced to,” he added.
However, Webb recognised that local authorities may struggle initially “because this could mean a fairly significant number of new young people who are eligible for services”, but said the principle could work “if it is resourced properly”.
“These young people, many of whom are already looked-after, should be entitled to support services and leaving-care support. We shouldn’t be looking upon this as having a much bigger looked-after population, just that these equally vulnerable young people should have rights to services. As a principle, this is the right thing to do and it is time to have these discussions,” he said.
The underlying principles for such reform were set out in the government’s sentencing green paper, published in December. The Ministry of Justice is expected to transfer resources to councils so children’s services can meet the costs of young people remanded in custody.
Webb pointed out that any savings achieved from reducing the numbers of young people in custody could be used to provide all young offenders with access to leaving care services.
He said not all young offenders would need access to these services in practice, even though all should have the right to them.
He added: “It is still very early days so many questions have not been answered yet. But the ADCS will be arguing that before the Ministry of Justice takes any savings [from these moves], ministers must resource the changes for local authorities.”
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