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Government calls for tough family intervention to prevent youth crime

Government calls for tough family intervention to prevent youth crime

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 22 July 2009

More action to tackle failing Youth Offending Teams

Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and Ed Balls are today calling on local authorities to crack down on out-of-control families who need to be challenged to prevent their children getting involved in anti-social behaviour, crime and violence.

Twelve months on from the £100 million Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP), Ed Balls and Alan Johnson are today writing to all local authorities in England asking them to expand and accelerate Family Intervention Projects (FIPs) which, in the last year alone, have challenged and supported over 2,300 families to turn their behaviour around. Councils and police have reported that FIPs are an excellent way of preventing and tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. Building on this success, an additional £6 million from the Department of Health will fund dedicated health workers alongside every FIP in the country over the next two years.

The Government is also today setting out future plans for turning around Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) where there are serious concerns. Whilst many YOTs are doing a good job identifying and working with young people who are one step away from the courts, Ministers are clear that there is no room for failure when it comes to protecting the public from crime.

The Government is keen to get tough on failing YOTs because they play such a crucial role in preventing and tackling youth crime and anti-social behaviour in their areas. The proposed changes to the law would give the Government powers to intervene in YOTs if an inspection finds serious problems by:

* directing local council leaders to make significant changes to the YOT, including removing staff from post if necessary;

* imposing targets requiring YOTs to improve; and

* sending in a team of youth justice experts to help improve practice.

The further actions to tackle youth crime are part of the Government’s YCAP One Year On publication which is focused on three key areas:

* preventing young people offending by tackling problems such as alcohol or truancy early and providing positive and exciting things for them to do, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights;

* more support to address causes of bad behaviour including non-negotiable support for families whose children are getting into trouble and to tackle the difficulties lying behind their poor behaviour; and

* tough enforcement, involving police working closely with other services on the streets and punishments that local communities have confidence in.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

“Today is an important milestone in our fight against youth crime. We have made real progress and early indicators show it is making a really positive difference to the lives of young people and communities across the country.

“But we are not complacent. There is still much work to be done and looking ahead to the next year I am committed to ensuring our young people and communities are on the right track and our streets remain safe for everyone.

”We know that the vast majority of young people recognise right from wrong and make a positive contribution to our society. There are a minority however who persist in anti-social behaviour and some in more serious criminal activity – their behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:

“Tackling youth crime is a key priority for this Government. We have made significant progress. The latest figures show a drop of 10 per cent in the number of young people entering the justice system and that frequency of re-offending has fallen by over 23 per cent.

“Youth Offending Teams play a crucial part in helping youngsters turn away from a life of crime. That is why I am determined to step in where YOTs are failing our young people. While many YOTs undoubtedly do a very effective job, we must be able to address areas where problems arise.

“By directing local authorities to revamp YOTs, imposing targets for improvement, and even sending in a team of youth justice experts to help improve practice, I believe that we can turn them around.

”The Youth Crime Action Plan has greatly strengthened our work. We must build on what we have achieved to increase the confidence of communities, families and young people."

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls said:

“Prevention is not the soft option – Family Intervention Projects constantly confront and challenge the parents and children they work with to change their behaviour. The families know that if they don’t use this support they could risk losing their home, go to court, prison or youth custody. We have already got tough on over 2000 families in the last year, preventing them from committing more serious offences. That’s why the Home secretary and I are writing to all local authorities to get them to step up their actions by expanding and accelerating FIPs in their areas.

“I’m delighted that the figures show that the triple track approach of tough enforcement, non-negotiable support and early intervention and prevention is successful. Over 120,000 young people have been saved from getting involved in or being the victims of crime. But we still need to do more.

“I am determined that there should be no room for failure with youth offending teams and we are looking to strengthen the Government’s intervention powers so that we can direct councils to make the substantial improvements that are necessary to protect the public and prevent re-offending.”

More than 128,300 young people have benefited from YCAP in the last year, potentially diverting them from committing, or becoming the victim of, crime. And 15,944 of them were referred on to other specialist services to address their behaviour.

The vast majority of young people are law-abiding and make a positive contribution to their communities. But a small minority commit crime and behave anti-socially with devastating impact for victims, families and communities.

Other action over the next 12 months includes work to:

* undertake annual consultation with local communities on what reparation work young offenders should undertake in their area;

* ensure parents take proper responsibility for the poor behaviour of their children, including making sure that there is an assessment of parental need for all children being considered for an ASBO and introducing mandatory parenting support when a child breaches an ASBO;

* change the way front line practitioners work with parents, so they don’t take no for an answer when a parent refuses support;

* continue £900 million investment from Aiming High for Young People which is providing positive activities, facilities and resources for young people across the country at all times but especially on Friday and Saturday nights;

* increase the drive to bear down on serious youth violence, including on knives and gangs, with £5m of additional investment in the Tackling Knives Action Programme in 16 areas; and

* give further support for young victims of crime backed by new investment in priority areas.

The first of the new ‘Youth Crime FIPs’ were set up following YCAP last year - funding was made available for a FIP in every local authority, targeting families where young people are at risk of offending. Ministers are highlighting the benefits of FIPs and making sure local authorities use the money available. Local authorities can make savings by using FIPs – some families cost their local community up to £250,000 each year in Police and court time or eviction and rehousing. The additional money to fund a health professional working with every FIP will ensure families who need help to address their underlying health problems, for example alcohol or drug abuse, will get the specific support they need.

YCAP was launched in July last year in 69 areas and is a cross-Government initiative with a triple track approach of tough enforcement where behaviour is unacceptable or illegal; non-negotiable support to address the underlying causes of poor behaviour and early intervention to tackle problems before they become serious or entrenched.

Core YCAP activities between November 2008 and June 2009 have included:

* After School Patrols to prevent youth crime and antisocial behaviour (ASB) at peak times (64,017 young people were engaged during 15,292 patrols at around 1,632 schools, with 2,497 referrals to other services);

* Operation Staysafe – using safeguarding powers to take children off the streets at night and return them to a safe place (581 operations carried out with 15,957 young people removed to a place of safety and 1,455 referred to other services);

* Street Based Youth Teams – engaging young people hanging around (deployed 5,944 times and engaged with 47,306 young people)

* Youth Offending Team workers in custody suites to identify and address young offenders’ needs early on and help keep them on the right track (1,117 young people engaged with and 611 referrals to other services between);

* Pay back work in leisure time (including Friday and Saturday nights) – making young offenders feel the consequences of their behaviour. Also, greater community involvement in identifying pay back work and more feedback to communities on the work that has been completed (6,600 sessions completed);

* Family Intervention Projects - intensive and persistent support for ‘chaotic’ families with children at risk of committing crime/ASB; and

* Think Family - providing a framework for adults and children’s services to work together to improve identification and support to families at risk (Think Family is currently being introduced into every local authority area).

A £24.1 million fund was split among the 69 YCAP areas in May this year to help build on this success and roll out innovative schemes across the country like Operation Staysafe, After School Police Patrols and Street Based Youth Teams.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Youth Crime Action Plan can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/news/youth-crime-action-plan

2. There are opportunities for journalists to visit YCAP projects across the 69 areas to see its delivery first hand.

3. Interviews with young people who have benefited from YCAP can be organised through the Home Office Press Office.

4. Local Authority officials directly involved with on the ground delivery of YCAP, including youth workers, in the 69 areas are available for interview.

5. Numbers of families reached by Family Intervention Projects are as recorded on a national monitoring system managed by the National Centre for Social research. The health worker will make sure that every person in the family receives appropriate support and treatment to ensure improved health and well-being and support the FIP to achieve positive behaviour changes and improve outcomes for families. Early evidence on the effectiveness of FIPs is available at: National Centre for Social research (2008) http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/programmeofresearch/projectinformation.cfm?projectId=15499&type=5&resultspage=1

6. YOTs are made up of probation services, social services, health, education and the police. Young people usually come into contact with YOTs at the final warning stage (one step away from court). Youth Inclusion Panels target 50 young people most at risk of committing crime or anti-social behaviour. YOTs supervise young people through the criminal justice system, delivering community sentences and co-ordinating local services for convicted young people to seek to ensure that they do not offend again.

7. The 69 YCAP areas are:

North East: Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Redcar and Cleveland, South Tyneside, Stockton on Tees and Sunderland.

North West: Blackburn and Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Halton, Knowsley, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, St Helens, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan and Wirral.

Yorkshire and Humberside: Barnsley, Bradford, Doncaster, Kingston upon Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

East Midlands: Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.

West Midlands: Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Stoke on Trent and Walsall.

London: Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Croydon, Greenwich and Barking and Dagenham.

South East: Brighton and Hove, Portsmouth, Slough and Southampton.

South West: Bournemouth, Bristol, Plymouth and Torbay.

The East: Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea.

8. The Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP) represents part of YCAP’s response to emerging challenges around serious youth violence, particularly knife crime. Starting last summer the Home Office is today publishing a report into the work undertaken in the initial 10 areas. It can be found at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/whatsnew1.html

9. For further details please contact the Home Office Press Office on 020 7035 3535.

Contacts:

Home Office Press Office
Phone: 020 7035 3535
NDS.HO@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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