There are concerns about public awareness regarding the role of Police and Crime Commissioners. Many of those who are familiar with the new posts still understand them as largely about policing, ignoring the role they must play in wider crime prevention initiatives. One such role and existing and future funding stream will be that of youth crime prevention.
Since the establishment of the Coalition Government, Home Office and Ministry of Justice grants to local Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) have dropped by 20% last year and around 4% this year with potentially more to come. Much of this money had been successfully invested by YOTs in schemes run by them and the voluntary and community sector.
The schemes are designed to target and intervene with young people at risk of or on the cusp of offending and anti-social behaviour. When I worked at the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (the public body which disseminates and monitors these grants to YOTs) I was responsible for the delivery of new Labour government grants in excess of £40M per year to start these schemes I worked with some of the most alienated and challenging groups of young people in some of the most deprived areas of England and Wales.
Youth crime doesn’t come from nowhere – it has causes. We looked at the evidence-base- education, family, personal, neighbourhood – and worked out the required intervention and which agencies needed to work closely together. Working with both criminal justice and child welfare organisations we put together effective partnerships on a national and local level which identified research proven programmes, evaluated their on-going implementation and established a network of effective practice in local neighbourhoods- at the very heart of local communities.
These programmes worked, not just in keeping young people out of the criminal justice system . Since 2007/08 there are:
• 55% feweryoung people entering the youth justice system
• 30% fewer young people in custody
• 29% fewer re-offences committed by young people
Alongside this of course are the huge reductions in the number of personal and community victims and significant savings in the net cost to the taxpayer.
All this is now at risk. The cuts in the budgets to the YOTs have already seen many of these programmes close. From April next year the budgets for these programmes will be in the hands of the new Police and Crime Commissioners who may or may not understand or recognise the importance of youth crime prevention. If elected I will ensure that I work closely with those agencies – Police, Schools, Probation and Youth Offending Teams, Children’s Services, the new Health and Wellbeing Boards and others to establish a firm and practical strategy to continue what is an essential part of the fight to drive down offending and anti-social behaviour.