Sure Start spreads its wings

The Sure Start Unit has begun working with a small group of
local authorities with the aim of extending the approach to more

At present the initiative will only reach one-third of the
children under four living in poverty in England, but the local
authority project will examine whether Sure Start’s style of
working can be used more widely at little or no extra cost. Sure
Start Unit head Naomi Eisenstadt said that lessons already learned
would be important considerations. These included the longer time
than originally anticipated to get projects off the ground,
difficulties with partnership working and the sharing of power by
agencies. She also acknowledged the crucial role of parental and
community involvement.

Alarm at youth crime figures

Community action may help to reduce crime levels in schools,
according to the authors of a report from the Joseph Rowntree

Nearly half of secondary school pupils in England, Scotland and
Wales have broken the law, says a survey of 14,000 secondary school
students carried out for the report.

Almost a quarter of 15 and 16-year-olds said they had carried a
knife or other weapon during the past year and nearly a fifth
admitted attacking someone. Vandalism, shoplifting and small-scale
property crimes were committed by a large minority of girls and
boys. This type of offending peaked among 14 and 15-year-olds.

A quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds said they had recently drunk
five or more alcoholic drinks in a single session.

Communities that Care chief executive Barry Anderson, who
co-wrote the report, said the survey showed the potential for
community schemes to prevent antisocial behaviour by tackling the
underlying risk factors. He described the findings on violence as
“particularly worrying”.

Youth at Risk? From www.jrf.org.uk

Government ups police involvement at

A series of clampdowns on bad behaviour in schools is set to
bring expanded learning support units, electronic registration to
pick up on truancy, and closer links with local police forces.

Education secretary Estelle Morris has announced £66m to
fund the measures, which will also include “intensive truancy
sweeps” involving education welfare staff with Connexions personal
advisers working to keep those caught truanting in school. Other
measures include full-time education for excluded pupils and
behaviour and education support teams to intervene early to prevent
bad behaviour and tackle its causes.

The initiative will be reinforced by the new school police
protocol. Up to 100 extra police officers are to be based in
schools by this autumn in 10 crime areas.

Home office backs anti-drugs

A pilot drug-testing scheme designed to break the link between
drugs and crime is set to be expanded into six new areas, the Home
Office has said. Compulsory drug tests for offenders charged with
drug-related or theft offences are being extended to Bedford,
Blackpool, Doncaster, Torquay, Wirral and Wrexham.

The scheme, intended to ensure that problem drug users are
identified early and are offered treatment, already runs in
Hackney, Nottingham and Staffordshire. Drug tests will be given
only to those already charged with an offence. “Overall, crime is
falling but class A drug misuse continues to fuel a significant
amount of property crime,” said drugs minister Bob Ainsworth.

Youth Justice Board gets more funds to
intensify community supervision

A more robust approach to community remand and sentencing has
been flagged up for young offenders as part of a government
crackdown on crime. It will result in 600 new places on intensive
supervision and surveillance programmes.

The Youth Justice Board has been given £6.5m to establish
more ISSPs over the next five months, as well as increase the
number of places on existing schemes. A total of 3,500 places on
ISSPs will now be available each year as the scheme is extended to
a further 33 youth offending teams in England and Wales.

The expansion is part of a Home Office initiative to plough more
money into the 10 police force areas worst affected by street
crime. Funding of £67m has been made available for tackling
street crime and a further £194m will provide more prison
places and measures to deal with youth crime.

ISSPs maintain surveillance of young offenders through tracking,
electronic tagging, or voice verification. They initially involve
around 25 hours’ contact time a week, including a package of
education, offending behaviour programmes, reparation to victims,
and family support.

The scheme will now embrace all outer London boroughs, as well
as Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Avon and Somerset, Wolverhampton,
Nottinghamshire, and Thames Valley.

Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and West
Yorkshire are already covered.

Measures of poverty under

The government is consulting on proposals to change the measure
of child poverty. The move came after the government was criticised
for falling short of its target by removing only 500,000 children
from poverty in its first term, half the number expected.

Children are usually considered to be living in poverty if they
are in households with incomes below 60 per cent of the median
average after housing costs, but the Department for Work and
Pensions has put forward four other options for consideration:

Option 1: continuing the indicators of low income,
“worklessness”, educational attainment, health inequalities, and
housing standards.

Option 2: a child poverty index created by weighting each of the
indicators in option 1.

Option 3: calculated by combining relative low income and
material deprivation.

Option 4: a core set of low income and “consistent poverty”

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