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Youth Offending

Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2012

Reducing the number of young people in the criminal justice system continues to be a priority for this Government, and a range of work is going on to prevent youth offending. Youth offending teams play a key role, and cross-Government initiatives such as the troubled families programme, the liaison and diversion programme and the ending gang and youth violence programme demonstrate a co-ordinated approach to this issue.

The Minister will know that members of the Justice Committee were told on a recent visit to YOI Hindley that breaches frequently occur when young people are released from custody and return to their community, from which they are often excluded by order of the court. That, of course, negatively hits reoffending figures, and the same circle continues to be drawn. Will the Minister work with colleagues across Government to make sure that young offenders leaving the secure estate have far better resettlement plans, as that is one sure-fire way to reduce reoffending?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I look forward to receiving the Select Committee report on this matter, which we are expecting shortly. I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that we are working not only with other Departments, including the Department for Communities and Local Government, but with the Youth Justice Board to ensure that young people have access to suitable accommodation on release from custody. The YJB is also working to improve resettlement on release from custody by encouraging local services to work more collaboratively to ensure that young people have suitable accommodation, which is an essential step in stopping them reoffending.

Under Labour, the number of first-time offenders fell by a third. Does the Minister believe it is realistic to think that that trend can continue when the cuts to local authorities are as deep as they are? He says he has a co-ordinated approach, but what is happening in practice?

I am happy to tell the hon. Lady that I do not need to project that things are carrying on in the right direction—they are carrying on in the right direction. In the past year, the number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system has fallen by 20%, from 45,900 to 36,700. I am grateful to her for giving me the chance to give those figures to the House.