Skip to main content

Criminal Justice System: Support for Children and Young People

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2020

What steps his Department is taking to support children and young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system. (904675)

Fortunately, the number of children coming into contact with the criminal justice system is reducing; offences committed by children have fallen by 76% over the last decade. We have allocated £72 million this year for youth offending teams to provide support for children who have offended, to help them turn their lives around.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement, in Croydon we have held a series of quite urgent meetings to look at the system and what we can do to improve things—the police, the youth offending teams and community groups. One of the issues that the youth offending service has identified is that a lot of young people who come into contact with it but just brush the system and do not end up being charged with any offences have significant problems, whether with trauma, abuse or bereavement, and need intervention at that point, before they are criminalised. Will the Minister look at increasing the support given to our young people at that stage?

The hon. Member makes a really important point on both how we ensure that there is not racial disparity in those who enter the criminal justice system and how we divert people away from it. She will be pleased to know that over £220 million has been invested in early intervention, including £200 million in the youth endowment fund to support those most at risk of being drawn into crime.

The Minister will be well aware that although the number of young people coming into contact with the system has reduced, very often they present much more complex and challenging cases—not least because of the data recently published by the Youth Justice Board showing a large number of pre-existing problems that are there before they come into contact with the system. Given that, does she accept that it is necessary not just to continue the existing measures of diversion, but to pull those together into a much broader, overarching strategy for young people and children in the justice system—not just up to the age of 18, as is the case at the moment, but, given the evidence we have on maturity, beyond that, perhaps into the early 20s or even to 25 which evidence that the Justice Committee has strongly supports?

As usual, my hon. Friend the Chair of the Justice Committee makes a number of important points. He is right to identify the fact that the people coming into custody, because there are fewer of them, have committed more serious crimes—often violent crimes—and are very complex to deal with. He is right to point out the importance of the transition between youth custody and adult custody, and that is something we are looking at very closely. The Youth Custody Service is currently looking at improving the transition in prison from youth to adult custody, and at the feasibility of introducing an integrated healthcare model for young adults based on the system that is currently operated in the youth custody estate.

Over 60,000 children were arrested last year in England and Wales but only 118 parenting orders were issued. That is less than 10% of the figure in 2009. How can a troubled young person turn around their life if the Government are not doing everything they can to help them?

The hon. Member makes a very important point. I was pleased to discuss a number of issues that cross our portfolios yesterday. He makes an important point about looking at the whole system and at where a young person will return to—the parents, the family, the community and the friends whom they will return to. If we manage to overcome their issues in custody, we need to ensure that they do not return to crime on coming out. Oasis, the company that is providing the secure schools that we are looking at very closely, wants to ensure that there are places for people to stay when they come and visit their children, but it also wants to work with them when they visit to ensure that there is that support when the young people leave. The hon. Member makes a very important point about parenting orders, which we are looking at.