Youth justice services must address children’s needs

Local authorities need to do more to ensure children leaving custody are better supported, the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association have warned.

In a discussion paper published last week, the associations said local authorities should work with youth offending teams to provide “survival kits” – including accommodation and a mentor – to every child and young person leaving custody.

Launching Every Child in Trouble Matters at the national social services and education conference in Birmingham, John Coughlan, chair of the ADSS children and families committee, said it was time to “wrest back the agenda of youth justice services into children’s services”.

“The document comes out of our concerns that the youth justice debate has not been contextualised around children’s services,” he said. “It is important when we are talking about integrating services that we remember the correlation between causes of youth crime and other forms of need.”

The paper makes a range of recommendations to address the “critical gaps” in current service provision and the “fragmented” policy making and service delivery at a local and national level.

It also calls for the government to reassess its current antisocial behaviour policy and ensure a “graduated, proportionate and transparent response” to antisocial behaviour.

Suzanne Payne, secretariat of the ADSS/LGA youth crime group, said that while antisocial behaviour orders were a potentially useful tool in addressing some aspects of behaviour, the government needed to reassess their often disproportionate use in relation to children and young people.

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