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December 2, 2014

Its all in the implementation

I’m a big picture person and took my eye off the ball after the government had decided to delegate remand budgets to youth offending teams.   I had always supported the idea (see Rob Allen’s work on justice reinvestment for Transform Justice) and, indeed, advocated for the delegation of custody budgets with government.  But in the event I think that the way the child remand budgets were delegated was wrong.  Each YOT has been asked to pay per bed night per child and the bed nights are priced according to the institution so, as in reality, a night in a secure children’s home costs more than a night in a youth offender institution.  Some YOTs are small and  have very few children remanded in custody each year.  So a few either way can make a huge difference.  Especially if a child is remanded on a serious charge.  A long spell on remand, which is par for the course for a serious crime, now blows the budget of a small YOT.  And is not something that can be easily avoided.  Equally the way YOTs have to pay more for remand for a vulnerable child in a secure children’s home is also wrong.  It produces a perverse incentive for them to say a child is not vulnerable (so they don’t get placed in a secure children’s home) and is unfair.  Remand numbers have come down since April 2013 when budgets were delegated, but not a lot.  And youth offending teams hate the policy, which bodes badly for future justice reinvestment.  Both Labour and LibDems want to delegate the whole of the child custody budget to local authorities but, to win them over, I think they need to radically rethink the detail of how it is done.