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Transforming Youth Custody

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 14 February 2013

The Government are today launching their consultation “Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention”. This forms the next step in delivering the Government’s rehabilitation revolution following publication of the “Transforming Rehabilitation” consultation last month.

Much has been achieved in the youth justice system. Overall crime and proven offending by young people are both down, fewer young people are entering the criminal justice system and the number ending up in custody has fallen. This is testament to the important work done by a range of passionate people working with young people to prevent offending.

But there remains a hardcore of serious and persistent young offenders for whom custody is the right place, and at present custody is delivering poor outcomes both for this group and for society. Seventy-five per cent of young offenders who leave custody reoffend within a year; education provision is patchy, meaning that many young people leave custody still lacking basic skills; and too often the support provided in custody falls away when an offender is released back into the community. On top of this, we are paying far too much for youth custody, close to £100,000 a place per annum, and in some cases more than £200,000.

Custody punishes by depriving offenders of their liberty, but we must also use that time constructively. It is an opportunity for young people to get help to tackle their offending behaviour and acquire the skills and self-discipline to secure placements in education, training or employment on release. My vision is for secure colleges which refocus a young person’s time in custody as education with detention, rather than detention with education as an afterthought.

To help me implement this change I want to seek ideas from the market on how it would deliver a secure college, drawing on the innovation and diversity of provision that characterises the free schools and academies reforms to education. If the consultation demonstrates that the market can deliver improved education and reoffending outcomes while driving down costs, I will seek to move quickly to launch a competition that will be open to all sectors.

I am today laying before Parliament “Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention”, copies will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.