Youth offending teams see funding cuts as youth knife crime rises

Youth offending teams see funding cuts as youth knife crime rises

Success at tackling youth crime will be threatened unless funding in this area is maintained, the LGA has recently warned.

Councils have not yet received their youth justice grant allocations for 2018-19, despite having to set budgets within two weeks, which the LGA says is causing concern.

Youth offending teams (YOTs) have seen a “significant reduction” in their government funding in recent years – between 2010-11 and 2017-18 it halved, from £145m to just £72m.

Included in these reductions were a £9m in-year cut in 2015, and a further 12% budget cut for 2016-17.

The LGA claims that council YOTs have achieved huge success in working with young people and supporting them to prevent them from getting involved in youth crime.

The last decade has seen a reduction of 85% in first time entrants to the youth justice system, and there are 74% fewer young people in the average custodial population, and there has been a reduction in youth cautions of 90%.

However, since March 2012 there has been an increase of 11% in offences involving knives or offensive weapons by young people, whereas there has been a 10% reduction for adults.

But the LGA has warned that significant rises in demand for urgent child protection work, combined with a £2bn funding gap facing children’s services by 2020 mean that councils are being forced to divert their “limited funding” away from preventative work, including YOTs and youth work in order to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that YOTs are:  “victims of their own success,” adding: “As the numbers of young offenders has fallen, so has the grant from central government to continue the preventative work that caused the fall in the first place.”

He warned that funding cuts undermine the progress that has been made over the last decade, with the increase in knife crime highlighting the challenges still faced by YOTs.

“Councils must be given the resources they need to work with young people and prevent their involvement in crime in the first place, rather than simply picking up the pieces after offences have been committed,” Watts said.

However, he argued that years of cuts mean that the youth justice grant now makes up just a third of YOTs’ funding.

“With council children’s services budgets increasingly focused on those children in the most urgent need of protection, YOTs are struggling to access the funding necessary to run vital, and successful, prevention and intervention schemes,” explained Watts.

The chair added: “With council budgets being finalised in the coming weeks, youth offending teams need to know that they can rely on the same level of grant funding as last year, at the very least, to continue their work to keep young people out of the youth justice system.

“This is made all the more urgent given that last year, the chief inspector of prisons found that none of the youth custody establishments inspected in England and Wales was safe to hold children and young people.”

Children are waiting up to 90 weeks for statements to be transferred to Education Health and Care Plans, ombudsman finds

Children are waiting up to 90 weeks for statements to be transferred to Education Health and Care Plans, ombudsman finds

Delays, poor administration and inadequate gathering of evidence when issuing new Education Health and Care plans (EHCPs) are having a “significant impact” on children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), the ombudsman has warned.

The local government and social care ombudsman Michael King has said his office has upheld four-fifths of the complaints it has investigated about EHCPs – the documents which set out the support a child is legally entitled to.

The plans were introduced in 2014 to replace statements of special educational needs. Statements are meant to be transferred to EHCPs by 1 April 2018.

Children waiting

But Mr King, speaking at a SEN Law conference this week, said that he was seeing significant delays in this process – with children waiting up to 90 weeks for their statement to be transferred to an EHCP.

He added that the provision set out in children’s statements should continue after April, even if a new plan is not in place by then.

“We know many authorities are struggling to meet the April deadline for transferring statements – and I want to stress they need to ensure provision remains in place if transfers to EHCPs have not occurred by the deadline,” he said.

“In the cases that come to us, we are seeing worrying patterns of delay, inadequate evidence gathering and poor administration – and this is having a significant impact on the children and families the new plans were designed to help.

“While we recognise the increasing pressure on children’s services departments, we will continue to make decisions based on the law, guidance and rights and not on diminishing budgets.”

A Tes investigation into delays for children requesting EHCPs for the first time found that almost 1,000 children with SEND had to wait longer than a year for a plan in 2016 – despite councils having a deadline of 20 weeks to issue a plan once it has been requested.

County Lines: The children forced to sell drugs

About 4,000 teenagers from London are being exploited and trafficked every year to sell drugs in rural towns and cities, a leading youth charity says.

Known as “county lines”, gangs use children as young as 12 to traffic drugs, using dedicated mobile phones or “lines”.

Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said the figures were “shocking” and the exploitation was only slowly being recognised.

It comes as the Home Office announced it was putting £300,000 into a new pilot project to help young victims.

File on 4 spoke to one teenager about what it is like to be involved in a county lines gang.

Michael* was 13 years old when a friend at his school approached him about selling drugs.

Lured in by the prospect of making money, he began selling in his local area, but things escalated quickly.

The gang was soon sending him on jobs out of London with the promise he could make around £500 a week.

He was sent to the house of a vulnerable drug user that the gang had taken over in the Midlands, a practice known as cuckooing.

‘A bit more’
Using this as his base, he was out on the street selling heroin and crack cocaine, day and night.

“I was a bit shaky, I was actually scared,” he says.

“But from the time you see the money, you’re just thinking, ‘OK, I can just bear a bit more.'”

Michael describes having a normal upbringing and a close relationship with his family.

Frantic about his long absences, he says, they would try to stop him by taking away his mobile phone – but as soon as he left his house, the gang would start hassling him again.

They would take him to a house where they ran a kind of breakfast club.

“Before you go to school you have breakfast there. I’d probably have a quick ride to school and then after school they come and pick you up as well,” he says.

Despite living with a group of drug users, Michael says he “didn’t really recognise the risks” or see how easily he could be attacked.

He describes how he once ended up staying in a graveyard after being left stranded hundreds of miles from home with nowhere to stay.

“They [drug users] could have found another drug dealer and told him ‘listen, this guy is in a graveyard and he’s got drugs’… anything could have happened, that experience was crazy.”

After being arrested for possession of drugs, Michael decided to stop selling, but says it was not easy to leave the gang behind.

“They were trying to get at me but I moved away from the area, so I think that helped me a lot.

“I started to gain different knowledge and actually make my life something else and not just be another number.”

‘Promises become threats’
The charity Safer London has dealt with many teenagers like Michael, who are exploited to sell drugs for older gang members.

The charity’s chief executive, Claire Hubberstey, said a frightening number of young people were at risk of being involved in county lines dealing.

“We have started recording when we’ve got concerns,” she says.

Based on the number of young people they see, they estimate at least 4,000 young people are at risk every year.

She compares it to the way children are lured in to sexual grooming, saying initial promises soon turn into threats.

“Young people often talk about being physically locked in premises so they’re not able to actually get out.

“Threats of coercion or violence mean they can be too scared to try to make their own way back – even if they have the means to do so.”

She wants all of these young people placed on the National Referral Mechanism – meaning they would be treated as victims of trafficking and modern slavery, rather than being treated as criminals.

“They are exploited children, and they are being manipulated and exploited. Even if they don’t see it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening”, she says.

‘Shocking numbers’
Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said the extent of county lines exploitation was only slowly being recognised.

“We’re waking up to it. Are we fully awake to it yet? Probably not, but we are starting to.”

He says tackling it will require a change in the psyche of the police and other authorities to see young drugs traffickers as victims not criminals.

“It makes an enormous difference. You get it right, the whole process changes because you don’t have that person in the dock, you start looking for someone else to put in the dock.”

Sarah Newton, minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said as well as new funding, the government had also taken measures including passing legislation to allow police to shut down the phone lines used to market drugs.

“It sends a very clear message that we will not tolerate this criminal activity.”

*Michael’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

First day of outreach into the community 21/10/2016

Our plans were to have 2 teams, one to go onto Tulse Hill estate and the other to go into Brixton (Windrush Sq). We had 6 attend so we had one team go onto Tulse Hill.

When we arrived a group of about 20 young people (between and ages of 12-14) had just finished football training. We said that we were from a local Church and we asked them what they thought could be improved on the estate. They started to talk about the football pitch, which they said was dangerous and said, that many of them had injured themselves playing on it. They told us about the potholes and the gravel. Then another young person said, ‘we always get people asking us what we want and nothing changes. There have been other Churches speak to us and we even spoke to the local MP. We said we wanted astroturf and floodlights because the football pitch is dangerous, but they never come back. All the other estates in Brixton have astroturf. They only help the bad people, no-one listen to us and nothing ever changes.’

We could sense their feeling of distrust and sense of invisibility. We told them we would be back and would do what we could. I asked if we could get another meeting with the MP would they be interested and they said yes.

We decided to look out for some of the older boys to get their views. We spoke to three boys one who was 16 and two who were 18 and asked them what they saw as the needs for the estate. They said the youth club is always closed and the football pitch needs astroturf and floodlight because that would keep the young people out of trouble!

We asked those older boys about themselves and if they were working or studying. One said he had a job; the other 18-year old said he is out of work and was looking for work in retail. We asked if he had a CV and if he needed support looking for work and he said he hasn’t got a CV and would like some help. We took his number and said we would call him to draft a CV for him and support him with job searching. The 16-year-old said that he wanted to go to college but missed the chance to enrol at college. He said he wanted to be a motorcycle mechanic. We will search to see if there is an apprenticeship he can apply for.

We will be inviting the boys to the Church for support.

We sent an email to the local MP and awaiting a response.

Keep us in your prayers

Invitation to London Christian Police Association Annual Event 18/10/2016

Steve was invited to testify to the power of Christ to transform lives at the Christian Police Association Annual Celebration. Steve encourage them by stating that the police often get a bad press but they should be commended for the work they do to keep us safe and the risk they put themselves in to do so. Steve also prayed for the Ambassadors. Balham Baptist Church lead the worship.