Young offenders: £80 million a year “wasted”

About £80 million a year is being “wasted” because young people leaving custody are being inadequately resettled, according to a report out today.

Poor resettlement leads to a greater likelihood of reoffending, ratcheting up costs in terms of custody, crime and housing, the report commissioned by youth charity Rainer says.

It focuses on the 6,500 15 to 17-year-olds on detention and training orders who leave custody each year. The orders are given to some of the most serious and persistent offenders.

The report claims the overall public cost of each young offender is about £78,000 a year, made up of custody (£30,500), the costs of crime (£46,500) and emergency accommodation (£1,100), with 15% of young people on the orders homeless on leaving custody.

Rainer claims savings of more than £12,000 a year for each offender could be made under a scheme such as Reset, a pilot it has been running since 2005. It provides resettlement workers and help with education and training, family support, accommodation, mentoring and substance misuse.

Emerging evidence from the pilot suggests some young people are “simply being given a travel warrant and dropped off at the nearest train station” after they leave prison.

Although the Youth Justice Board issued a resettlement strategy last February, a lack of funds and the rise in youth custody – with numbers averaging around 3,000 over the past year – have stalled progress.

Rainer claims overcrowding is putting “severe pressure” on staff in secure institutions who have too little time to plan for release, with contact between offenders and youth offending teams occurring “far too late”.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has repeatedly raised the issue of councils not fulfilling their duties to young offenders leaving custody, taking two cases to court. In the most recent Court of Appeal ruled Sutton Council had “sidestepped” its responsibilities to accommodate a 17-year-old, by treating her as homeless (news, p4, 2 August).

A 10-year government crime strategy published in March said young people leaving custody should receive the same assistance as care leavers, though this will require extra resource.


More information

The business case for youth resettlement



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