Barnardo's tell Tories delinquent children need intervention
Locking up child offenders is a pointless and expensive waste of time, the Conservatives in Birmingham heard on Sunday.
At a Conservative Party Conference fringe debate held by children’s charity Barnardo’s, delegates were told a new way should be found of dealing with children aged 10 to 14 who commit crimes.
And Barnardo’s proposals received support from the Tories who said the way forward was “early intervention” to nip juvenile delinquency in the bud.
The charity’s chief executive, Martin Narey, said there had been a huge increase in the number of 10 to 14-year-olds sentenced to custody in the form of Detention and Training Orders (DTOs) of 550 per cent since 1996.
And this form of punnishment was expensive with an average cost of £185,780 a keep a child in custody for a year.
Mr Narey said locking up a child aged 12, 13 or 14 for just four months - the average term of a DTO - was futile because it was impossible to tackle that child’s problems in such a short length of time.
Delegates were told there were clear trigger points in these youngsters’ lives which made them commit crimes, notably bereavement, running away from home, substance abuse, living in care and struggling at school.
The Conservative’s shadow justice spokesman Nick Herbert said it was a difficult issue to tackle in the eyes of the public as many people wanted to see child offenders locked up rather than being given so-called “soft” community penalties.
“Before jumping to conclusions that the solution is to remove the ability of the courts to jail this group we need to look at how effective the other intervention measures are,” he said.
“Strengthening the family is the most important means of strengthening society.
“What the public wants is a proper holistic programme - we need to begin at the beginning. We cannot ignore the fact that a third of these children in custody were in care.”.
Mr Narey said the money currently spent on custody could be better used given to Barnardo’s for programmes to keep families together and help youngsters with no parents.