The youth justice system

Continuity of care at key transition points

Children and young people in contact with the youth justice system (YJS) need the same extra support at key transition points as their non-offending peers, and they have additional transitions that can be especially difficult to cope with. These include:

  • The start and end of sentences
  • Entry to custody which might be the first time a child has left home
  • Moves within the secure estate that can be sudden and unplanned
  • The move back home or to independent living after custody
  • The move to the adult criminal justice system which might involve entry to an adult prison.
A recent thematic report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons, on resettlement provision for young people in YOIs, highlights many of the problems faced by young people returning home from custody.

A health and well-being needs assessment (HWBNA) that give a clear sense of the number of young people involved, and of any gaps in support or services that need to be filled, can help commissioners of health and well-being services ensure that systems are in place to support these important transitions.

Attention is often needed to ensure that children and young people:
  • Are registered with a GP and a dentist
  • Access support from specialist CAMHS; speech, language and communication services; and other appropriate health services in the community
  • Access other types of therapeutic support, such as counselling or bereavement services and help to rebuild strained family relationships
  • Improve the transition to community-based substance misuse services
  • Have stable and suitable accommodation
  • Engage or re-engage in education or training or are supported into employment.

Underpinning all this is the need for prompt information sharing between professionals, with dedicated support from a lead professional, so that the right services are identified and provided.

Local practice, guidance and protocols on integrated working across children’s services in relation to the Team Around the Child (TAC) and lead professionals for children and young people with complex needs should also help provide the support needed so that children in contact with the YJS can cope better with difficult transitions.

Find out more about guidance on integrated working and lead professionals on the Team Around the Child (TAC) page of the Department for Education website.

If a young person is under 16 and cannot live with his or her parent or guardian on release from custody, a referral must be made to children’s social care, so that the young person can be accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

If the young person is 16 or 17, he or she could be housed either through accommodation provided under section 20 by children’s social care or by a housing authority. Where a 16 or 17 year old needs accommodation it will almost always be appropriate to make an initial referral to children’s services. Failure to do so might result in their losing out, not only on immediate support but also on the leaving care support that can be provided until the age of 21, or even 24.

The local authority has a duty to help children in their area who are considered to be ‘in need’ under section 17 of the 1989 Act. In order to establish whether or not the young person is ‘in need’ children’s social care should carry out an assessment of their needs.

Youth Justice Board (YJB) resettlement consortia

The YJB is currently supporting seven resettlement consortia across local authorities (six in England and one in Wales). The aim is to promote the development of strategic partnerships between agencies with a shared interest in resettlement, to encourage integrated working and service delivery and so improve the arrangements and experiences of young people leaving custody.

The focus for individual young people is on improving the planning of their leaving custody and providing practical support with accommodation, training and employment, and continuity of relationships.

An evaluation report is expected in summer 2012.

View a map of the secure estate in England and Wales.

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