Council youth offending teams (YOTs), the police and their partners have an outstanding track record of working with young people to avoid them coming into the youth justice system. There has been an 84 per cent drop in the number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system over the last decade, and an 82 per cent decrease in the number of children receiving cautions or sentences over the same time. A well-funded, preventative, youth justice system will ensure that councils and partners are able to continue to reduce these figures and to help the government to achieve its outcomes set out in its Beating Crime Plan. Young people involved in crime are more likely to have additional needs or to have been excluded from school. Investing early in these young people will divert them from the criminal justice system and reduce offending.
However, over that period, the youth justice grant has been cut by half and there is a concern that these reductions are now threatening those successes. For example, Ministry of Justice figures reveal rises in robbery offences by young people over the last two years following long-term falls and violence against the person continues to increase as a proportion of all crimes committed.
It is vital that the grant remains at least at its current level in real terms to ensure youth offending teams can give young offenders the dedicated help they need, while allowing them to continue with the positive work that has delivered substantial reductions in youth crime to date.
This will be even more important as we recover from the pandemic. Young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or whose families lose work may look to crime to pay the bills, while the Youth Violence Commission has raised concerns about the potential impact of the pandemic on levels of serious violence as a result of poverty, family insecurity and inequality. Properly resourcing YOTs, youth services and children’s social care will help councils to work with young people and families early.