UK Government

Department of Health: Health services join the fight against youth crime

Press Release   •   Dec 08, 2009 11:11 GMT

The first cross-government strategy specifically designed to break the link between poor health and youth crime was launched today by Care Services Minister Phil Hope.

Speaking, while visiting staff at Lewisham Police Station, the Minister outlined how ‘Healthy Children, Safer Communities’, will build on existing work to prevent young people from getting involved in crime. The strategy focuses on early intervention to address health problems to ensure the underlying causes of poor behaviour are tackled before problems become serious or entrenched. It will also ensure that young people already in the system have their health problems dealt with more effectively.

Evidence suggests that health is a key risk factor in youth crime. Of children and young people in contact with the youth justice system, evidence shows that half have difficulties with speech and communication; a third have diagnosed mental health issues and/or is treated for substance abuse; and a quarter has a long-term physical complaint and/or learning difficulties.

The strategy will:

·        Highlight the importance that everyone who works with children has access to training to help them spot mental health issues early.
·        Promote specialist interventions such as Youth Justice Liaison projects to divert more children from the justice system to appropriate services, and therefore reduce offending and re-offending.
·        Ensure all children receiving a community or custodial sentence have a healthcare plan, developed alongside their sentence plan, to address their specific needs.
·        Improve access to health services on resettlement, and ensure young people register with a GP.

Care services Minister Phil Hope said:

”Young people end up involved with crime for a complex mix of reasons. This strategy creates better links between health services and the justice and education systems. It will enable services to deal with all the problems a vulnerable child faces at one time reducing the risk that they will turn to crime.

“Government reforms are already cutting youth crime, I’m confident that through more effective use of health services we can reduce it further.”

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said:

"A key part of our youth justice strategy seeks to divert young people from the criminal justice system in the first place through providing better targeted support including in health. Young people in the youth justice system are also less likely to commit further offences if they have access to the frontline support and services of the community.

"We have seen good progress over the last year with fewer first time young offenders and decreasing re-offending rates. Improved healthcare will build on the significant reforms we have implemented over the past twelve years, but we are determined to do more."

Policing and Crime minister David Hanson said:

“Intervening early with young people on the fringes of the criminal justice system is a key element of our strategy to tackle youth crime. Addressing the health needs of these young people, as well as those already within the youth justice system, by improving the way the youth justice system and the health service interact, is vital in supporting our programme of prevention and intervention.

“Overall, crime has fallen by 36 per cent since 1997 and the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time is falling. But we know there is still much work to be done, and this work represents our continued commitment to tackle the root causes of youth crime.”

School's Minister Vernon Coaker said:

"We know that youth crime can have a devastating effect on victims, communities and families, and we must tackle it head-on. Improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable young people can play a significant part in helping to tackle youth crime and setting young people on the right path.

"Today's strategy is an important step in ensuring that local services work more closely together to support the health needs of vulnerable young people within the justice system. It builds on the work we are already doing to tackle youth offending through the Youth Crime Action Plan - backed by £100m of government investment- and the expansion of our successful Family Intervention Projects (FIPs). FIPs provide targeted, personalised support for the most challenging families to ensure that young people with complex health, emotional or other needs receive the support they need early on."

Superintendent Partnership Lewisham, Lisa Crook said:

“We are all very proud of the successes we have had here at Lewisham with the Youth Justice initiatives, and pleased we have been involved from the very early stages. Triage shows that real impacts can be made in tackling youth crime at its roots without unnecessarily criminalising young people. By investing in their overall health and well-being in this way we build confidence in the criminal justice system as well as setting the foundations for happy, healthy and fulfilled future generations.”

Lewisham Police Station is pioneering two initiatives to improve the way children and young people are dealt with. The Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion scheme aims to ensure that children and young people with mental health problems, speech and communication difficulties, learning disabilities and other problems get the help they need as soon as they enter the youth justice system.

Additionally, the Triage Scheme brings a Youth Offending Team worker’s expertise into police charging centres to ensure that young people entering custody are rapidly assessed and their needs identified and responded to.

Notes to editors

1.            Photographs of the Minister’s visit to Lewisham Police Station are available on request.

2.            Health Children, Safer Communities can be downloaded from the DH website, along with its sister strategy Improving Health, Supporting Justice, at http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/Offenderhealth/index.htm.

3.            This strategy builds on Lord Bradley’s review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system was published on 30 April.  The Government accepted the direction of travel set out by Lord Bradley, and committed to developing a national delivery plan incorporating a full response to the report’s recommendations.

4.            The cross-government Healthy Children, Safer Communities Programme Board is chaired by Richard Bradshaw – Director of Offender Health, Department of Health.

For further information please contact the Department of Health press office on: 0207 210 5221

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