System to identify potential young offenders will not work, says charity

A leading children’s charity has raised doubts about a central
plank of the government’s strategy for dealing with children at

Questioning the government’s plans to develop identification,
referral and tracking systems, the Children’s Society principal
policy and practice manager Sharon Moore said she doubted that
potential offenders could be targeted before they broke the

“The truth is we cannot predict which child will offend,” she said.
“The vast majority of children who have to cope with these at-risk
factors don’t commit crime.”

Speaking at a conference on social exclusion among children and
young people organised by 0-19 magazine and the Children
and Young People’s Unit, Moore said the government’s misplaced
focus on youth offending was at the expense of other services for
vulnerable children.

“Children’s organisations are concerned that resources are focused
away from children with needs towards those who are labelled a risk
in society,” she said.

Moore said that children currently had to be considered as
potential offenders before they received services. “The narrowing
of the focus to offending and potential offending behaviour denies
the needs of others,” she said.

She went on to criticise the government’s language and tone in its
policies, such as the Antisocial Behaviour Bill, which served to
exacerbate public concern about youth offending, despite levels
actually falling. She said these concerns were also being fuelled
by the way the media reported the issue.

Calling for a more holistic approach to children in line with the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, she urged the government
not to miss the opportunity provided by the forthcoming Children at
Risk Green Paper to “provide services to children and families not
based on their future risk but on their needs here and now”.

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