Have your say

Deafness is the subject of debate this week, and we ask:
Should deafness be regarded as a cultural identity as well
as a physical disability?

What do you think? – have your say by clicking

The deadline is 30 May and your comments will appear in this
section of the website on 31 May.


Last week’s Have your say debate centred on the issue of
youth offending and we asked what can be done to stop young people
becoming persistent offenders?

Click here
to read a recent Community Care article on
the subject

These are the responses we received:

There seems to be so much that is wrong with
the treatment of young offenders, I wonder is anything OK?

The idea of two cautions and then a court appearance as a
blanket response is nonsensical. I know a young man who after two
cautions for being drunk was taken to court for crossing a local
single track railway line, an offence that was stupid, but which
could have very sensibly been dealt with by another caution.

The idea that young offenders are given a referral order and
seen by a team of support workers is great, if that is needed. Some
young offenders with family support will find the court appearance
will be a sufficient deterrent, others will need other help. An
automatic knee jerk response cannot be cost effective, young people
are different, their different needs need to be noted and responded

If offending behaviour persists this is for some reason. An
automatic response of custody for a number of property offences and
a completely unpredictable response for offences involving violence
makes no sense. It used to be the case that the court would take
note of recommendations in social inquiry reports and were not so
driven by automatic, set, sentencing policies.

Once in custody young offenders are treated appallingly. No
education and often no activities or counselling are offered while
they are on remand. Once sentenced they are left for at least six
weeks with no programme of activity or education arranged for them.
It cannot be beyond the wit of the YOI system to set up continuous
rolling programmes of education and activities which new prisoners
join on admission. No young person should leave a custodial
sentence illiterate, those who go in with basic skills should come
out with at least GCSEs or GNVQs in English and Maths and one
practical skill. This is a ‘captive’ and bored audience, where
better to ensure a basic educational programme is followed.

When young offenders are due for release normally nothing is
arranged for them until they report at the probation office in the
week following their release. Surely the probation service in the
YOIs should be ensuring that the young people, before release, have
a firm plan and arrangements made prior to their release: i.e.
accommodation confirmed, training and job applications already sent
off. Now none of this happens until after they are released and
back with friends with whom they committed the original

The truancy scheme and fostering arrangements described in the
article seem great, perhaps Blunkett should be thinking about
funding these rather than extra places in prisons for young
offenders? But these are only some initiatives, there are many
possible and we should not fall into the trap, that has happened so
many times before, of thinking that one good idea will fit
everyone. Not all young people who offend are the same…some are
very disturbed or distressed and need therapeutic help, some have
little support at home and need this from elsewhere, some are in
need of educational skills and need individual educational
programmes, some come from families in extreme poverty and
difficulty who need practical help, some are influenced by their
peers and will grow out of the offending behaviour and need
alternative activities in the community, some only occasionally do
stupid things and need to be checked then left alone.

The approach must be an individual one, based on both the
offence and the reason for the offence, and must take individual
need into account.

Judith Evans

I work as a young person’s mental health
specialist in a pilot scheme in Lewisham, offering a service to
young people, aged 10-18 years, who are offending or who are at
risk of offending, and about whom there are mental health concerns.
Referrals come from a variety of sources but especially the YOT
(youth offending team) and local schools.

A big issue with this group of people is their willingness or
ability to engage in services. Almost all of those referred to our
service have been referred elsewhere in the past, and professionals
have been unable to engage them over a period of time long enough
to bring about or sustain change. One way of increasing levels of
engagement is assertive outreach – being prepared to go and find
young people when they are not willing to attend appointments. I
have found that levels of engagement have increased as I have
become more assertive in my outreach. I meet young people at
school, at home, in YOI, psychiatric units and in social settings.
Few of my appointments are held in the office. In this way, young
people get one worker, who is willing to go out of their way to
engage them, in whatever setting they happen to be in. Having one
person willing to undertake this task and stick with it over time,
sends a positive message to the young person, that they are worth
the time and trouble. If the young person wants to change, there
will then be a sound base from which to work.

I have found this approach particularly helpful with young
people at the beginning of their offending career – just the sort
of people who would not normally get this level of service. I
believe that substantial input at the beginning will save
considerable trouble over time.

John Lincoln

Ashby Road Therapy Service (ARTService)

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