Council’s partnership to cut youth offending earns top commendation
A partnership between Gloucestershire County Council and the county's Police and Crime Commissioner has been celebrated at the highest level.
The Children First scheme which saw the council's Shaw Trust link with the PCC has been commended at the Howard League Awards which recognises exceptional work in the criminal justice field.
Children First was established to help reduce the number of criminal penalties given to young offenders. Between January 2018 and April 2019, 309 Youth Restorative Interventions (YRI) were given to 275 young people in Gloucestershire.
A YRI is a direct alternative to a criminal penalty, with all that implies for future career, education and employment opportunities.
In March this year, thanks to Children First, Gloucestershire had the second biggest reduction of first time entrants into the criminal justice system in the country.
Reoffending rates for children have also continued to be significantly lower than for those in the criminal justice system. Youth caution numbers are down to 13.5 per cent in the first year and nine per cent so far in 2019, this compares with a reoffending rate for youth cautions of 44%.
The figures represent one of the biggest reductions in youth offending in the country which is why we received a 'commendation' for Children First at the awards.
Kate Langley, lead for youth justice in Gloucestershire who also leads on the PCC’s policing priority for helping young people become responsible adults said: “We recognise that children who come into contact with the police for wrongdoing are often vulnerable themselves. For them, traditional sanctions are ineffective and can make things worse.
“Since 2018 all decisions regarding youth cautions and criminal charges have been referred to a joint decision-making panel, able to resolve most cases through a youth restorative intervention. In other words, encouraging young people to take responsibility and make amends for their wrongdoing. This can include elements of restorative justice, where the young person may meet their victim, write a letter or undertake some work within the community to make amends for their behaviour, whilst offering them the support they need.
“But it’s not a soft option. Any young person who does not engage with the programme faces a return to the caution or criminal charge process. However, in the past year only 4% of young people given a YRI have been returned to the panel for not engaging”.
Chris Spencer, director of children’s services at Gloucestershire County Council said: “We are very proud of the work Children First is doing to reduce the number of children entering the formal criminal justice system and I’m delighted that their efforts have been recognised by the Howard League.
“Keeping our children and young people out of the criminal justice system has positive benefits for them personally and for the county as a whole, both now and in the years to come.”