Coventry councillor concerned about changes to young offenders legislation
Wednesday 24 October 2012
A leading Cabinet Member for children and young people in Coventry has expressed deep concerns over new legislation transferring extra responsibility and costs for all young offenders to local authority control.
Under the New legislative reforms of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) the existing arrangement for Court Ordered Secure Remands and Custodial Remands will be replaced by a Single Youth Remand Order which will apply to all young people aged 12 - 17 years who are remanded to the secure estate. In addition, the status of 'looked after child' will apply to all young people on remand.
The new remand order will involve considerable budget pressures for local authorities (LAs). Under the existing payment arrangements, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) currently pays two-thirds of the total costs of bed-nights for young people remanded to Secure Childrens Homes (SCHs) and Secure Training Centres (STCs) under the Court Ordered Secure Remand, with the Local Authority paying the additional one-third of the costs.
In addition to this, the YJB currently fund the full costs of children remanded to under-18 Young Offender Institutions (YOIs). From 1 April 2013, those places on remand in SCHs and STCs will become the full financial responsibility of the Local Authority, with no additional funding transfer. LA's will also become responsible for meeting the costs of all remand to YOIs and funding will be transferred to LAs upfront based on the average bed nights over the last three years.
The funding for each La has been reduced by 15%, based on calculations by the YJB that a new stricter "bail test" is likely to result in a reduction in the number of remands. New legislation and guidance for magistrates means that they should only impose a remand where there really is no viable alternative to support the young person in the community.
The forecast deficit for Coventry in 2013/14 of £85k assumes that the LA achieves the 15% reduction in cases. If this is not achieved there would be an additional pressure of £59k increasing the overall deficit to £144k.
Councillor Jim O'Boyle, Cabinet Member (Children and Young People) said: "I am seriously concerned about how these changes will impact on young people and on our budget, particularly at a time when all of our services are already undergoing significant budget pressures.
"The legislation also assumes LAs have the power to reduce remand cases. The reality is that the time period and number of remand episodes required to conclude a case is outside our control. In addition, some of our young people who are accommodated out of city by Social Care may appear in other courts and we may have no influence in the subsequent remand decision.
"We have already started a number of intensive early intervention programmes in Coventry which we hope will help us to improve the lives of many young people in the future, but the results will take some years to impact and won't help the young people currently on the edge of custody."