Youth offender institutions ‘not preparing children for release’

8 Aug 19

Youth offending institutions in England and Wales are not providing adequate resettlement services for children, according to two watchdogs.  

YOIs are not giving the housing, mental health and educational support young people needed when released, an HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation report released today said.

Ten days before leaving a YOI, almost 14% of children released in the first three months of 2019 did not know where they would be living after leaving the institution, the watchdogs found. 

Inspectors looked in detail at 50 cases of children leaving YOIs between January and March this year and found that 38 out of 50 did not have education, training or employment arranged for their release.

“Every year, hundreds of children are released into the community from the five YOIs in England and Wales – many of them with very profound needs for support and follow-up care. Some pose a serious risk of harm to others,” the report said.

Peter Clarke, HM chief inspector of prisons, and Justin Russell HM chief inspector of probation, did note some “excellent resettlement work” helping children to reintegrate.

Although, he added: “More often, though, we found that, while children were in custody, there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released.

“The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “This inspection paints a worrying picture of a youth justice system that is letting down the children it is supposed to rehabilitate, leading to more people becoming victims of crime.”

Burgon added that these failings were driving a “cycle of reoffending”.

Helga Swidenbank, executive director of the government’s Youth Custody Service, said: “We are reviewing resettlement services at all Young Offenders Institutions and will be working closely with external agencies providing accommodation, education, training and employment to improve arrangements for support on release.”

CIPFA figures released this year showed an 18% drop in council spending on services for young people.  

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