Antisocial behaviour legislation should be reformed to focus on early intervention and prevention, instead of tackling youth crime through the punitive system, an influential think-tank suggested yesterday (10 February).
Research by the centre left Institute for Public Policy Research found that the most prolific offenders, who on average committed crimes over a 13-year period, began to offend between the ages of 10-13.
Instead of issuing antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos), which were now seen as a badge of honour, the government should extend the current Sure Start Plus pilot scheme to support children who might carry out crime, and divert them away from criminal acts, it said.
This national service would tackle issues within families and communities that often lead children aged 5-12 to criminal behaviour.
Lead professionals would be given individual budgets for children at risk to fund cognitive behavioural therapy, parenting programmes, multi-systemic therapy, or intensive education interventions.
To support early intervention, IPPR recommended that welfare teams, which would include a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist, a family worker, a counsellor and a school nurse, should be introduced in all primary schools in England and Wales.
Also, the think-tank recommended that all funds for structured community activities should be pulled together and issued to providers in deprived areas to promote emotional and social development at a young age.
The report, Make Me a Criminal – Preventing Youth Crime, also recommended that Asbos should not be issued to under-12s and the time limit for the orders should be cut from two to 10 years to between six months and two years.