Young offenders turn back to crime as pressure on support services tells

Lack of resources and poor access to support services are “critically undermining” efforts to prevent reoffending among some of the most problematic young offenders, according to a new report.

The Youth Justice Board’s final evaluation of intensive supervision and surveillance programmes (ISSPs) finds that more than a quarter of staff in 41 schemes reported difficulties in accessing support services.

Nine out of 10 young offenders were reconvicted within two years of finishing an ISSP, and the report highlights a lack of provision in mental health, substance misuse and accommodation services.

It said the 91 per cent reconviction rate was “not surprising” because the young people studied had committed an average of 11.6 offences in the previous two years.

Most staff reported that “poor” statutory services for persistent offenders had a negative effect on the quality of ISSP provision.

Ellie Roy, chief executive of the Youth Justice Board, said more engagement from mainstream services was needed to combat the high reconviction rates.

“Young people finishing the ISSP may be placed in unsuitable accommodation or become homeless. They may be excluded from school, or have mental health problems that go unaddressed,” she said. 

“Statutory services are not getting involved because they are under pressure and face difficult choices over how to spend resources.”

Roy raised particular concerns that schools were passing young people at risk of offending over to youth offending teams rather than trying to engage them.

She also defended the ISSP scheme in the face of criticism over the high reconviction rates.

“The YJB never set out to stop offending as this would be impossible. The aim of the ISSP is to reduce the seriousness and frequency of reoffending, and this is being achieved,” she said.

The YJB’s evaluation finds that the frequency of offending fell by 40 per cent over one year and 39 per cent over two years.

It also finds ISSP schemes not run by youth offending teams achieved “significantly worse” results in reducing the frequency of reoffending compared with those that were.

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