Youth justice bill to shake up secure estate care and focus on prevention

Young offender institutions, secure training centres and local
authority secure children’s homes could be brought “under one
roof” with common standards in a shake-up of youth custody,
according to government proposals leaked to Community Care,
writes Maria Ahmed.

The plans are contained in the Sentencing and Youth Justice
Bill, which the Home Office has confirmed is likely to be published
in October.

The announcement has quashed fears that youth justice
legislation announced last year, had been abandoned after it was
not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in May.

The bill is likely to include proposals to establish intensive
supervision and surveillance orders as an alternative to custodial
sentences, to extend youth offending teams’ functions,
introduce generic youth community orders and make the prevention of
reoffending the primary purpose of sentencing for young people.

Adult sentencing will also be contained in the bill, according
to the leaked proposals, which could fuel growing speculation over
the future of the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill
announced in the Queen’s Speech this year.

Youth justice campaigners said they hoped the proposals to
create common standards across YOIs, STCs and Laschs would drive up
the quality of care for young offenders.

Pauline Batstone, chair of the Association of Youth Offending
Team Managers, said the proposals would be “a chance to go back to
the drawing board”.

But she warned that implementing common standards could increase
costs unless they covered the “most basic” functions, and predicted
Laschs could need additional standards as they held the most
vulnerable young people.

Batstone was also sceptical about whether the courts would have
the confidence to refocus legislation to make the prevention of
reoffending the primary purpose of sentencing for young people.

She said: “Will magistrates be prepared to take the flak which
may come from this, where the public and media do not perceive a
sentence based on this principle to be punitive enough?”

Roy Walker, manager of the Sutton Place secure home in Hull,
said the standard and quality of care in Laschs should form the
basis of the common standards and not those of YOIs and STCs.

The Youth Justice Board said it would not comment on the
contents of the bill before it was published.

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