Almost three quarters of young people referred to the Northamptonshire Youth Offending service after being up before the courts are under the care of social services.
The stark figure has been revealed by the annual Northamptonshire Youth Justice Plan which says that of the 102 post-court orders given to young offenders in the year to July last year (2018) 74 were given to young people who had a social worker, were under a child protection order, were looked after by the authority or were a care leaver.
The report, which was written by former Director of Children’s Services at Northamptonshire county council Sally Hodges, says: “This clearly showed a disproportionate number of young people with a legal status coming into contact with Northamptonshire Youth Offending Service (NYOS). Those children and young people that were in care or had become care leavers, made up 34.3 per cent of the YOS post court population. However, as concerning and significant was the number of young people who were children in need: these accounted for 28.4% of the NYOS post court population.
“These findings fit with the national picture, that these young people are significantly over-represented within the system. Ensuring that the circumstances leading to coming into the youth justice system are fully explored, and that they are diverted from the formal system wherever appropriate. Whether or not this is possible, a fully collaborative approach across agencies will be required both in delivering interventions and otherwise reducing the potential for them to return.”
Speaking at full council yesterday (Nov 22) shadow cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Jane Birch said more early intervention is needed.
She said: “A really high proportion of care leavers and children in care end up working with the youth service.
“I’ve seen the effects of early intervention. The closure of sure start centres, the way that austerity has closed down the youth services. All this has undermined the scaffolding of support for families and really undermines the resilience families have to help their children to overcome the vulnerabilities that leave them open to exploitation, criminal gangs, and the drug county lines.
“And if we are to reduce the entry and reoffending numbers we have to look very carefully at the number of pupils who are excluded from school, the work of pupil referral units and the number of home schooled and out of school pupils. There are a whole cohort of people who we do not really address in the way we should. They have become the most vulnerable and subject to grooming, child sexual exploitation, involved in crime and reoffending.”
Cllr Richard Auger, who is a former police office, said there needed to be more early intervention as the factors that lead to young people committing crime were well known.
“We need to do more work in preventing them from falling into crime. By working closely with our education partners to try and deal with the young people who have these risk factors so we prevent them coming into the system.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is that once they are committing acts of criminality it is then more difficult to steer them away. There is a chance if we put enough money into the preventative stuff we have a chance to stop this youth crime epidemic we currently have.”
The report looked at the reoffending figures from the 2016/17 cohort and found that six per cent were responsible for 45 per cent of reoffending with 40 per cent of the reoffenders looked-after children.
The overall annual budget of the youth offending service is just under three million, which is made up of contributions from NCC, the NHS, the police and crime commissioner.