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LGA - Youth offending team funding reductions could increase number of children in custody

The number of children in custody risks increasing if plans to reduce in-year funding for Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) by an additional £9 million go ahead, council leaders warned recently.

The Local Government Association is warning that the unexpected reduction, to be handed down on top of savings already identified by the Youth Justice Board for 2015/16, will throw agreed local plans into jeopardy.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, said the move will be counterproductive and will end up costing the public purse more due to the increased likelihood of more entrants into the youth justice system.

In conjunction with local councils, YOTs have played a leading role in the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system falling by 75 per cent over the past decade, from 88,403 (2003/4) to 22,393 (2013/14).

YOTs have already had to find efficiency savings, through staffing and support costs, to cope with 40 per cent less money to run services in recent years. Many say the scope for further efficiencies are limited and extra funding reductions will inevitably impact on the ability of councils and youth justice teams to work with young offenders, tackle gang and youth crime and engage young people in their communities.

Councils believe that further budget reductions will mean court ordered interventions will have to be prioritised over preventative work or community-based responses such as: 

 Parenting and family support

  • Early work with a young person identified as being at risk of offending
  • Restorative justice interventions for community resolutions
  • Additional support for those young people who reach the end of their order but are still at risk of offending.

Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

  • "Youth offending teams are widely recognised to be the most successful part of the criminal justice system, working closely with young people to prevent first time offenders and reduce the overall numbers in custody. They have achieved these successes in spite of regular funding reductions over a number of years, bringing about significant savings for successive governments by preventing young people getting into trouble in the first place.
  • "With the increase in the types of violent incidents young people are involved in, work of YOTs are more important than ever to local communities and are an effective way of addressing youth crime and youth violence.
  • "A further £9 million funding reduction is likely to be counterproductive and will undoubtedly have a major effect on the amount of diversionary and the vital preventive work that has enabled YOTs to bring down the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system and lower reoffending rates.
  • "With the average cost of a young person in custody estimated at £100,000 per annum, it would only take 90 individuals to enter the youth justice system for one year and any planned savings will be wiped out in real terms.
  • "The danger of imposing such a reduction is that any short term savings could well be outweighed by the long term costs of an increased number of young people being involved in crime and at a later date, these same individuals remaining within the criminal justice system on reaching adulthood.
  • "If a young person spends five years in the youth justice system they will have already cost the taxpayer more than half a million pounds. If you then add to this the cost of that individual being unable to work, perhaps claiming benefits or being involved in crime as an adult, the future costs begin to spiral making the attempted £9million of savings seem very short-sighted"

Examples of current schemes

Notes

  1. Youth Justice Board proposals to find £13.5 million in-year savings.
     
  2. Transforming Youth Custody Infographic - Ministry of Justice
     
  3. In 2012/13 the Ministry of Justice and Youth Justice Board spent approximately £247 million on the detention of young offenders. The average cost of a place in each of these types of youth custody is:

      - A place in a Secure Children's Home costs an average of £212,000 per annum
      - A place in a Secure Training Centre costs an average of £178,000 per annum
      - A place in a Young Offender Institution costs an average of £65,000 per annum.

     
  4. Between 2002/03 and 2012/13 the number of young people arrested for notifiable offences has fallen by 58 per cent, from 299,500 in 2002/03 to 126,809 in 2012/13.
     
  5. Overall there were 90,769 proven offences committed by young people that resulted in a caution or conviction in 2013/14, down by eight per cent from 2012/13 and down by 68 per cent since 2003/04. The largest percentage falls in proven offences between 2010/11 and 2013/14 have been in the following offences; public order offences fell by 60 per cent, breach of statutory order offences by 55 per cent and motoring offences by 54 per cent. The number of drugs offences fell by 34 per cent and in the number of robbery offences fell by 37 per cent between 2010/11 and 2013/14.
     
  6. The number of first time entrants (FTEs) to the youth justice system has fallen by 75 per cent from 88,403 in 2003/04 to 22,393 in 2013/14. The number of FTEs has fallen by 80 per cent, since the peak in 2006/07. In the last year, the number of FTEs has fallen by 20 per cent from 28,059 in 2012/13 to 22,393 in 2013/14.
     
  7. The average population in custody (under 18) in 2013/14 was 1,216, down by 21 per cent from an average of 1,544 in 2012/13 and by 56 per cent from 2,771 in 2003/04. Government Policy Paper – Last updated March 2015 Ending gang and youth violence programme: annual report 2014 to 2015
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