Mixed reception for Clarke appointment

    Charles Clarke’s appointment as home secretary could lead to fewer
    young people being placed in custody, the Howard League for Penal
    Reform has said.

    The charity said the former education secretary’s experience of
    presiding over reforms to children’s services suggested he would
    introduce a more child-centred youth justice regime than his
    predecessor.

    “We’ve got to be optimistic that things [will] be better than they
    were under David Blunkett,” a spokesperson said. “We are hoping
    that there will be more positive messages about children and the
    appropriateness of custody for children.”
    But despite the fact Clarke has already acknowledged that the
    asylum system is in need of urgent reform, refugee groups said it
    would be “business as usual” on asylum.

    A Refugee Action spokesperson said: “We haven’t received any
    indication that government policy is going to change in any way as
    a result of one individual going and another replacing him.”

    Clarke replaced Blunkett last month after the home secretary
    resigned. This is Clarke’s second spell in the Home Office, having
    served there as a minister between 1999 and 2001.

    His promotion triggered major changes at the Department for
    Education and Skills at a critical time, with Cabinet Office
    minister Ruth Kelly promoted to education secretary.

    John Ransford, director of education and social policy at the Local
    Government Association, said the changes did not “signify anything
    in terms of a change in policy”.

    But Paul Ennals, chief executive of children’s charity NCB, said
    that it would be tough for an incoming secretary of state to get to
    grips with the reforms to children’s services.

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