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Youth Reoffending

Volume 469: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2007

Between 2000 and 2005, youth reoffending reduced by 2.5 per cent. The Youth Justice Board has worked with partners to improve practice to ensure that the right performance frameworks and indicators are in place, and to put in place a delivery plan to reduce reoffending still further.

Given what my right hon. Friend says and the real achievements of the youth offending team, the Prison Service and probation officers in Tameside and Stockport, what more can the Government do to ensure that once young people have served their punishment, they receive the support, help and intervention necessary to keep them on the straight and narrow, particularly in relation to housing and access to the employment market?

My hon. Friend raises important points. We need to ensure that we reduce reoffending among under-18s in custody, which stands at approximately 76 per cent. We need to consider what help we can give with accommodation, and pilot projects are operational. We also need to ensure that we invest in skill development and learning, which is why I welcome the Prime Minister’s establishment of the joint unit between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and my Department to work together to manage the Youth Justice Board so that we can consider education and skill development, which are key to the prevention of further reoffending.

Does the Minister agree that one way to stop young people from reoffending is to have fairness in the justice system? My constituent, Mr. Shalish Patel has been charged with a serious offence and is correctly remanded in prison, but in Birmingham, not at the local remand prisons of Bedford or Woodhill, and his family is particularly concerned—

Order. The person concerned has been charged, so the matter is sub judice and it would be best to move on.

I welcome the drop in youth offending rates, but what is being done to spread examples of best practice in different parts of the country to ensure that we have a unified approach so that levels can drop still further?

The Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), and I are looking carefully, through the inter-ministerial group on the prevention of reoffending, at what works, and with the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes), through the joint management of the Youth Justice Board, we are considering good practice. The YOTs do a tremendous job. I have seen examples at first hand throughout the country of where they have made real interventions in reducing crime, and I am sure that that is true in Portsmouth, where my hon. Friend has taken a great interest in preventing youth crime. I shall certainly be considering whatever good examples hon. Members can produce with a view to putting them into practice throughout the country.

One of the difficulties of preparing people in prison for life outside is the constant movement of prisoners, which prevents them from completing education and drug treatment courses. Is the situation any better for young offenders than it is for the rest of prison population?

We need to do better on the whole question of drug use and drug treatment for young people. As the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) said, one of the key drivers of youth crime is involvement with drugs, both before entry to prison or youth offending institutions and sometimes, sadly, afterwards. We need to do intensive work on the issue, and I am keen to see how we can build on that. At the moment we are examining drugs policy in young offender institutions.