Peers question political agenda for children’s and young people’s services

No decision has yet been taken on whether local authorities will
be forced to provide a minimum level of youth services, the
government has revealed.

Responding to calls for clarification on whether the promised
education bill would place a new duty of youth provision on all
councils, health minister Lord Warner told the House of Lords no
decision had been made. He also refused to be drawn on the
publication date of the long-awaited youth green paper.

In a debate on the legislative agenda set out for the new
parliamentary session, the Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson on
education and children, Baroness Walmsley, expressed regret at the
absence of a youth justice bill “to make custody a last
resort for juveniles”.

Calling for community sentences with a strong educational
element to become the norm, she said: “If the welfare of the
child is put at the heart of youth justice, the government will
achieve its aim of reducing reoffending and everyone will be

The Earl of Listowel, a crossbench peer, added that despite all
the rhetoric about joint working and the need for professionals to
come out of their silos, the youth justice system was still not
working effectively with other agencies to achieve better outcomes
for children.

“Perhaps one good example of that is the government policy
to encourage the publication of the details of children with
antisocial behaviour orders,” he said.

“The Home Office has conducted no research into the impact
of such publicity on those children, their siblings or families. If
I were a youth worker or a social worker and the basis of my ethos
was to safeguard children, I would have great difficulty in working
in an organisation which in this aspect shows so little regard for
the welfare of troubling, but also often troubled,

Walmsley also stressed the need for the government’s
latest initiatives to be backed with the necessary resources,
highlighting in particular the development of the children’s
workforce and the future implementation of the findings of the
group set up last month to look into school discipline.

“If the Every Child Matters agenda is to be achieved, all
these matters must be addressed and I and many professionals within
the sector have not seen the commitment to putting in the resources
to deal with these challenges,” she warned.

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