SCYJ and SEC welcome Government amendments to the Children and Families Bill

SCYJ and the Special Educational Consortium (SEC) warmly welcome Government amendments to the Children and Families Bill on Special Educational Need (SEN) provision for children in custody.

As originally drafted, the Bill excluded children from the new SEN framework set out in the Bill. We have been working with Government to change this.

The Government tabled amendments at House of Lords Report Stage. These were welcome but we felt there was room to go further. We are very pleased that the Government has now tabled further amendments for Third Reading in the House of Lords – which will take place on 5th February – which strengthen the way the new SEN framework applies to children in custody.

We believe these changes will significantly improve the position of children and young people with SEN in custody and have published a briefing for peers welcoming the Government’s amendments.

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SCYJ responds to latest youth justice figures

Responding to the 2012/13 youth justice statistics, which were published today, SCYJ Chair, Penelope Gibbs, said:

“There’s some really good news in the new youth justice figures – reductions in the number of children entering the system for the first time, fewer proven offences, and a 21% drop in the number of children in custody.

“But there’s disturbing news from custody. The number of physical restraints per child has increased by 45%  in two years, instances of self-harm per child have increased 7% since last year and assaults have increased 22%.  This is worrying. Children in custody are some of the most vulnerable in society. These figures could indicate they are not getting the intensive support they need.

“The government needs to act urgently to improve the situation in custody. But it also needs to make sure it builds on the positive results we’ve seen this year in the rest of the youth justice system.”

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Government concedes on Anti-social Behaviour Bill

Today the Government has tabled amendments to the Anti-social Behaviour Bill to remove the damaging definition of anti-social behaviour (ASB) – conduct “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance” – other than in housing related cases.

The Government amendments mean that ASB will continue to be defined as conduct causing “harassment alarm or distress”, except in cases related to housing, for the purposes of the new ASB injunctions (IPNAs).

This is in-keeping with existing law, which the Bill seeks to replace, and with the decision the House of Lords took when they debated the ASB definition earlier this month.

The SCYJ has been campaigning to change the definition of ASB with the Children’s Society,Criminal Justice Alliance, JUSTICE, Liberty and Reform Clause 1.

In response to the Government’s amendments, Penelope Gibbs, Chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said:

“The SCYJ is really pleased that the government has decided not to fight peers’ opposition to the proposed definition of Anti-Social Behaviour as “conduct capable of nuisance or annoyance”. This definition was too broad and risked getting thousands more children unnecessarily in trouble with the law. We are still campaigning for the government to restrict the use of imprisonment for 14-18 year olds who breach the new injunction but we are hopeful this shows the government are willing to listen and adapt.”

 

Notes to Editors

1.The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) is a membership organisation campaigning for a better youth justice system. We have over 30 organisations as members, a full list can be found here

2. The full Government amendments can be found here

3. For the purposes of ASBOs, the definition of ASB is “harassment alarm or distress”. Existing ASB orders for housing related cases (ASBIs) define ASB as “nuisance or annoyance”, these can only be used in a housing context. The Anti-social Behaviour Bill seeks to replace ASBOs with a new injunction (IPNAs). This injunction, which would be applicable to behaviour in any context, defined ASB as “nuisance or annoyance”. The Lords passed an amendment at Report Stage of the Bill, changing the definition of ASB for the purposes of the IPNA to “harassment alarm or distress”, other than in housing related cases where the “nuisance or annoyance” definition would remain. Today, the Government tabled its own amendments in-line with the Lords Report amendments.

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