Intensive “non-negotiable” intervention will be given to 1,000 of the most challenging young people to help prevent antisocial behaviour, the government announced today.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls and children’s minister Beverley Hughes unveiled the measure as part of a £218.5m youth taskforce action plan.
It pledged tough enforcement where behaviour is unacceptable or illegal, non-negotiable support to address underlying causes of poor behaviour and better prevention of problems.
Twenty intensive intervention projects aimed at young people based on family intervention projects will be established over the next three years.Young people will have to agree to a contract and receive an “assertive and persistent” key worker to work with them to ensure they gain help to deal with the causes of their behaviour, according to the plan.
If young people refuse the help or refuse to mend their ways, they will face consequences including antisocial behaviour orders and individual support orders.
Ed Balls said the measures were “not a soft option” and would address underlying causes of bad behaviour, such as substance misuse.
The children’s secretary added: “Communities want lasting improvements and that means not only stopping bad behaviour when it occurs but also changing it and intervening early to stop bad behaviour spiralling into future offending. That is why we are also investing record sums in positive activities for young people to make sure they have places to go and things to do at the weekends and in the evenings.”
The youth taskforce was established in October last year to “take the work of the previous Respect programme forward” under the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The previous Respect ‘tsar’ Louise Casey, who was at the helm of Tony Blair’s antisocial behaviour drive, moved to the Cabinet Office last year.
The changes under Gordon Brown’s government have been interpreted by some as a shift away from the Blair rhetoric on antisocial behaviour. Last year, Ed Balls said that every Asbo issued was a “failure”.
Today’s strategy was broadly welcomed by the children’s organisations, many of whom have been calling for a greater emphasis on prevention to deal with antisocial behaviour over the past decade.
Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, the crime reduction charity, said: “This approach is much more likely to steer troublesome children away from crime than negative measures like Asbos. Children who become persistent or serious offenders often have a range of problems. These can include family conflict, abuse, school exclusion and substance abuse. The more support they get in the early stages of antisocial behaviour, the better the prospects for diverting them from lives of crime.”
John Coughlan, director of children’s services at Hampshire Council, said the Association of Directors of Children’s Services welcomed the plan. “This focus on more excluded young people is critical and we believe the balance – between prevention, support and enforcement – is the right one,” he said.
A ten year youth strategy was published in July last year by the DSCF, which aims to help young people to take part in positive activities.
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