A suggestion I read on the Treasury’s website inviting the public to make suggestions on spending cuts. The entry suggested that with a conviction for a third offence the person could be taken round the back of the court and justice dispensed. While this would undoubtedly save the state money the idea of executing three time shoplifters doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I think I would prefer to see the state save money by looking at the variety of factors that can contribute to offending and this includes issues around speech, language and communication needs.
The Trust’s youth justice programme is now entering a new phase as training will be delivered to frontline staff at YOTs across the country. The training helps staff to understand how communication needs can manifest themselves and how simple strategies can produce better outcomes for everyone.
This is not to say that if you understand the communication needs of young people youth crime will be eliminated, there are many, many different reasons why people offend. However, the number of young people in the youth justice system with communication needs is disproportionate to the general population so there is clearly an issue here to address.
An important part of all of our work is in the evaluation, about showing how the work we do is having a positive effect on the people it is aimed at, the youth justice workforce and ultimately the young people in their care in this case. We need to show more clearly the scale of the issue and identify gaps in service provision. We need to look at how young people are supported, how the training helps to change working practices and how it might affect YOT completion rates, attendance rates and breach of order rates.
As I mentioned, the communication needs of young people in the youth justice system are part of the broader issue but in the longer term we would hope that these needs are better recognised and that this recognition can have a positive effect on the lives of these young people.
For my money I would much rather see the state investing in prevention and helping young people to better understand the system they can find themselves a part of. Ignoring the needs of young offenders is unlikely to do anything in diverting them away from crime. As a society I hope we recognise that young offenders are not all ‘hooded wrong uns’ but young people that in many cases require support that may have been absent for most of their lives.