One of the most striking features of nearly all attempts to address the resettlement challenges of 15-18 year olds during the last decade of youth justice reforms, has been the conspicuous absence of a willingness to identify them as 'children in need'.
Were that to occur, the young people in question would be guaranteed adolescent to adult transitional support services under Children Act legislation.
What's illustrated below are just some of the initiatives that have resulted from wide spread recognition that more could and should be done for those whose lives have been particularly challenging, and who find themselves in the 7% of young people in the youth justice system who are sent to secure accommodation.
The Youth Justice Board
In 2003, the YJB published 'Key Elements of Effective Practice - Resettlement'. An accompanying 'reader' was produced in 2005 to support youth justice practitioners resettle young custody leavers back to the community.
In response to the Home Office's 2004 strategic reducing reoffending plan, the YJB published 'Youth Resettlement: A Framework for Action (2006). This document provided local government with more policy direction. At around the same time, the YJB also published the 'Accommodation Strategy for Children and Young People'.
PRISE Project 2004-05 & RESET 2005-07
The Equal funded PRISE Project aimed to re-engineer the resettlement process for young offenders aged 16-18 through strategic planning joined up coordinated multi-agency services.
RESET was a diverse project with over 50 partners who came together to change and improve the resettlement process for young offenders. Established on the belief that with the right support, young offenders could access a better future and positively contribute to society, RESET sought to develop innovative solutions to gaps in policy, practice and provision.
Youth Crime Action Plan
The Government's 2007 Children's Plan announced the development of a Youth Crime Action Plan one element of which would address the resettlement needs of young people in the youth justice system.
In November 2007, the Government created the Joint Youth Justice Unit, reporting both to the Ministry of Justice and the DCSF. The new unit was given responsibility to ensure that young people in contact with the Criminal Justice System achieve all 5 Every Child Matters outcomes.
Despite these significant legislative, research, policy and guidance developments, the effective resettlement of young people remained a clearly identified area of weakness in the youth justice system.
Practitioners continue in their struggle to deliver coordinated support services, and in particular, adequately supported, age appropriate accommodation for young people at the point of release.
At the YJB Convention in November 2007, Ed Balls - the then Secretary of State for DCSF - picking up on recommendations made in the 2003 Child Protection & Safeguards Review of the Under-18 Estate, announced that Government could now see a clear need to ensure that when young people leave custody, they are properly resettled.
He stated that, "...he transition from custody needs to give them the foundation to establish a better, more stable life outside of custody". He went on to say that the Government would ask whether young people who leave custody should have the same kind of support as children leaving care.
Time for Action
In November 2008, the Major of London published 'Time for Action', a programme of actions that aimed to 'unleash the talents of thousands of young people across London'.
The Youth Programme brought together a wide range of stakeholders to provide long-term solutions to complex problems. Young people would be given an opportunity to improve their skills and increase their chances of accessing further education and long-term sustainable employment.
The ESF fund invested £22m over 3 years in Londoners aged 14-19 with a particular focus on two hard to reach groups - young offenders and those not in education, training or employment.
The Mayor's programme was split into 6 specifications totalling £22.7m. Specifications 1-4 totalling £11.5m dealt exclusively with young people in custody and their resettlement needs.
House of Commons Justice Committee - Youth Justice March 2013
This document reports on a wide-ranging inquiry into the youth justice system in England...
Young people who find themselves in custody can generally be described as coming from acutely disadvantaged backgrounds. Most present with a history of poor educational achievement, many have had Children's Services involvement and periods of time in local authority care...