LGA - Cuts to youth offending budgets putting crime reduction work at risk
6 Mar 2018 09:00 AM
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is concerned that councils have still not received their youth justice grant allocations for 2018/19, despite having to set budgets within the next two weeks. This is making planning services to support young people and help keep them out of the youth justice system extremely difficult.
This follows a significant reduction in government funding for youth offending teams (YOTs) over recent years, from £145 million in 2010/11 to just £72 million in 2017/18. These reductions included a £9 million in-year cut in 2015, and a further 12 per cent budget cut for 2016/17.
Council YOTs have achieved huge success in working with and supporting young people to prevent them getting involved in youth crime, with an 85 per cent drop in First Time Entrants to the youth justice system and 74 per cent fewer young people in the average custodial population over the last decade.
The number of youth cautions handed out dropped by more than 100,000, or 90 per cent, in the same period.
However, the latest Ministry of Justice figures reveal an 11 per cent rise in offences involving knives or offensive weapons by young people, compared with a 10 per cent reduction for adults since March 2012.
The LGA says that cuts to the Government’s youth justice grant mean councils are having to make up more of the funding for YOTs from their own budgets.
However, faced with significant rises in demand for urgent child protection work and a £2 billion funding gap facing children’s services by 2020, councils are being forced to divert the limited funding they have left away from preventative work, including YOTs and youth work, into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“Youth offending teams have an outstanding track record in working with children and young people to stop them coming into the youth justice system, but they’ve been victims of their own success. As the numbers of young offenders has fallen, so has the grant from central government to continue the preventative work that caused the fall in the first place.
“Increases in knife crime amongst young people highlights the challenge still facing youth offending teams, and we’re worried that cutting back on funding risks undermining the progress that’s been made over the last decade.
“Councils must be given the resources they need to work with young people and prevent their involvement in crime in the first place, rather than simply picking up the pieces after offences have been committed.
“But years of cuts mean that the youth justice grant now makes up only around a third of funding for YOTs. With council children’s services budgets increasingly focused on those children in the most urgent need of protection, YOTs are struggling to access the funding necessary to run vital, and successful, prevention and intervention schemes.
“With council budgets being finalised in the coming weeks, youth offending teams need to know that they can rely on the same level of grant funding as last year, at the very least, to continue their work to keep young people out of the youth justice system.
“This is made all the more urgent given that last year, the Chief Inspector of Prisons found that none of the youth custody establishments inspected in England and Wales was safe to hold children and young people.
“Councils want to do all they can to keep young people out of potentially dangerous institutions and divert them away from damaging situations so that they can live positive, fulfilling lives, but high quality youth work and targeted intervention schemes cost money, and that is in increasingly short supply.
“Government must commit to the futures of our young people by maintaining funding for the vital work that can put young people on the right track and help to transform lives.”