SCYJ responds to Home Office consultation on new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence

SCYJ has responded to the Home Office consultation on a new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence.

We support a public health approach to tackling serious violence which seeks to address its root causes and welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the need to shift focus from a punitive response towards a multi-agency, more preventative approach. We welcome the intention to encourage organisations to share information, data and intelligence, and work in concert rather than isolation to identify children at risk as early as possible.

However, we do not believe that the proposals contained in this document amount to a public health approach. We are concerned there would be a number of unintended consequences for both children and the agencies involved if a statutory ‘public health duty’ is created, without achieving the desired result of reducing the number of children harmed by serious violence. SCYJ’s key objections to the proposal to create a legal duty are:

  • A vision for tackling serious violence which is limited to the scope of the Serious Violence Strategy does not represent a holistic approach to protecting children from harm, which can consider the full range of partners and interventions needed, as well as the structural, political and economic factors that contribute. A broader strategy is needed which equips the safeguarding system, statutory and voluntary services to protect children from harm outside the home, with resources and guidance to do so. This should embed a response that takes account of the context in which children are at risk and is trauma-informed. A duty for serious violence, which presents these issues as distinct from wider safeguarding duties, could lead to a more punitive approach to these children which evidence suggests is inadequate to reduce violence.
  • Implementation of a new duty without additional resources or definitive guidance is wholly inappropriate for services already tasked with rising demand, crisis management options, and low retention of staff.
  • The potential consequences of a new duty in this context have not been fully considered, both for the organisations involved and children affected, including how the duty will fit within other recent policy such as Knife Crime Prevention Orders; and the impact on racial disparity.

SCYJ’s preferred option would be for the government to support voluntary approaches to multi-agency working, which leaves room for flexibility and adaptability, to ensure resources are directed most efficiently, reflective of and responsive to local needs.

Read our full response here.

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SCYJ response to Justice Select Committee inquiry on court reform

SCYJ responded to the Justice Select Committee inquiry into the Access to Justice impacts of courts and tribunals reform.

Our response focuses on the HMCTS Reform Programme in the criminal courts as it affects child defendants, especially on the use of video links and online pleas.

We believe the use of video links and online pleas, along with the closure of courts, will negatively impact access to justice for children in trouble with the law. We are concerned by the approach taken by HMCTS, such as the lack of research, impact assessment, information sharing, public consultation and stakeholder engagement on key elements of the reform programme. When the programme began there appeared to be a complete lack of consideration of the needs of children as a distinct and vulnerable group, although we believe they are now taking some steps to address this.

Read our response here.

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SCYJ response to Youth Justice Board consultation on National Standards for children in the youth justice system

SCYJ responded to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) consultation on proposed new National Standards for children in contact with the law. We welcome the YJB’s intentions in revising the National Standards, but have concerns that the proposed Standards will not encourage the provision of quality services. We urge the YJB to rethink and redevelop the new standards. Failing that, we urge the YJB to update the Standards according to our suggestions laid out in our response, and to pilot them and subject them to a thorough process evaluation before roll-out.

In summary:

  • We welcome the child first Principles laid out, but do not feel they are fully reflected within the individual Standards.
  • We welcome the YJB’s intention to emphasise outcomes rather than describe processes, but do not feel that the new Standards have, as yet, achieved this goal. We also question whether the youth justice system is established enough that process-driven requirements are unnecessary, when key elements continue to be beset by failure.
  • The vague, subjective nature of the Standards will cause difficulties in monitoring. Updating the Key Elements of Effective Practice (KEEPs) would help remedy this, although this would still not address the core issue of difficulty in monitoring or holding services to account under the new standards. It also seems that monitoring will become more opaque, and the YJB’s process for intervention more unaccountable.
  • It is unclear what the Guidance sections will contain, making it impossible to comment fully on the adequacy of the current draft.
  • The out-of-court Standards focus on desistance from crime, rather than diversion into more suitable child-focused systems, and the promotion of positive behaviours.
  • There is a concerning absence of children’s rights in the ‘at court’ Standards, and we require clarification on certain subjects, including suggestions on victims’ statements.
  • We are pleased to see a move away from time requirements and the prescription of enforcement and intervention reviews in the ‘in the community’ Standards, but feel that the standards could be strengthened further.
  • The Secure Settings Standards include some welcome recognitions, but we are concerned that the lack of clearly defined processes removes important safeguards for children, potentially making secure settings less safe and less accountable.
  • We are pleased to see the introduction of a distinct Standard on transition and resettlement, but believe more requirements should be described.
  • The YJB should produce a child-specific version of the standards.

Read our full response here.

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