30 May 2008
Ten years of bold reforms and massive investment have failed to have any measurable impact on reducing youth offending, says an authoritative new study.
The report, Ten years of Labour's youth justice reforms: an independent audit, by researchers at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Kings College, London, says the number of children being locked up has risen by 8% in the past three years, despite a target of a 10% reduction.
Since 2000/01, spending by the Youth Justice Board and the statutory agencies that contribute to Youth Offending Team budgets has increased in real terms by 45%, according to the audit.
Excluding the probation service, youth justice has received the largest real-terms increase of all the main criminal justice agencies.
The centre said that almost all the targets for accommodation, education, training and employment, substance misuse and mental health have been missed.
Enver Solomon, the report's co-author, said the findings suggested the multi-agency youth offending teams were not necessarily working.
'The government's record on youth crime and tackling the multiple needs of children caught up in the youth justice system is less impressive than many would have expected,' he said.
'This raises questions about the success of the reforms in making an impact on the number of children and young people who offend, and demonstrates that the youth justice agencies can do little more than regulate youth crime. The government has placed too high expectations on the youth justice system and should be clearer about its limitations.'
But the YJB said the study had failed to include some targets that were on track, such as the 17.4% fall in the frequency of reoffending between 2000 and 2005, and the halving of the average time from arrest to sentence.
Its latest figures also show youth crime is broadly stable but with a recent rise in recorded offences involving girls.