Youth offending teams will receive more training to ensure they can pick up emerging health and mental health needs of young offenders, according to a cross-government strategy launched today (Tuesday, 8 December).
The strategy, Healthy Children, Safer Communities, aims to join up youth justice with health and social care to address the current health inequalities of young offenders. It states that if interventions are targeted it will avoid later problems.
Under the strategy, young people, at every stage of the youth justice system, should have access to mainstream health and social care services while all sentenced young offenders should have a personalised healthcare plan. Magistrates should also be provided with accurate information on health and well-being needs.
Mike Thomas, chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team managers, said the poor health of young offenders was significant, with many not registered with GPs or dentists. He said YOTs were in an “ideal position” to carry out early health screenings for young people who come into contact with their services.
Thomas welcomed a strategy which would join up services. “It helps to develop, and demonstrate, the benefits that YOTs can offer young offenders. At a time of budget cuts, the challenge is for children’s trusts to invest appropriately in YOTs,” Thomas said.
Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board, also welcomed the strategy. “It is recognised that poor health – particularly mental health – can, when compounded with poor education and a disrupted family life, increase the likelihood that a young person will commit an offence.
“We welcome this publication highlighting the need for greater engagement of agencies responsible for health, social care, education and justice, all these play a vital part in keeping children and young people out of the youth justice system,” Done said.