The desire to control is winning

There is mounting concern that the government’s interest
in improving the lives of children and young people has been
sidetracked into a narrow concern with youth offending. A steady
stream of announcements about truancy, antisocial behaviour and
street crime has given the impression that young people are seen
primarily as a nuisance and a threat. More resources from
Connexions and the Children’s Fund are being diverted into
measures aimed at controlling and containing children rather than
supporting them.

The confusion about John Denham’s successor as minister
for young people has only strengthened this impression (Update,
page 4). It looks as if the government is not interested in who
does this job, or indeed whether anyone does it. Paul Goggins, the
Home Office minister who has inherited the rest of John
Denham’s (and for two months Hilary Benn’s) brief,
directed a youth justice project for the children’s charity
NCH before he became an MP and has a long record of campaigning
against poverty. There is good reason to believe that as minister
for prisons and probation he will want to reduce the high number of
young people in custody.

But the obvious place for a minister for young people is not the
Home Office but the Department for Education and Skills. The
Children and Young People’s Unit, whose director reports to
the minister for young people, is already located within the DfES.
More importantly, there are millions more children directly
affected by education policy than criminal justice. A minister for
young people in the DfES could play a much needed role in upholding
the interests of pupils, and rebuild confidence in its commitment
to children and young people.

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