The Transition to Adulthood Alliance has responded to two government consultations on social mobility, and the children’s secure estate.
Extracts are below and the full consultation responses can be downloaded via the links at the end of the page:
Extract from the T2A response:
Young adults aged 18-24, who constitute less than 10% of the population, are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, making up more than one third of those commencing a community order or suspended sentence order, one third of the probation service’s caseload and almost one-third of those sentenced to prison each year.
Young adults in trouble with the law often have particularly high levels of complex need and are from backgrounds of great disadvantage, frequently with few or no educational qualifications and no experience of work. Vulnerable young adults often lack positive adult role models and also suffer from high levels of mental ill-health and alcohol and drug misuse problems. As a member of staff, describing the young adults using their specialist service, put it: ‘they’re very needy. They’re very vulnerable. They haven’t had good role models. They often have chaotic lives, and lead very hand to mouth existences. And some of them, despite their age, are amazingly unskilled at coping with adult responsibilities.’
Within this cohort, a quarter of men in Young Offender Institutions are, or are shortly to become, fathers and some 60% of women in custody are mothers, with 45% of those having parental responsibility at the time of the imprisonment. T2A would like to see greater recognition within the government’s social mobility and child poverty strategy of the importance of getting interventions with this group right. Our experience has found that poor transitions to adulthood impact on the next generation, as the wrong interventions with young adults within the criminal justice system can hamper their ability to maintain relationships and family contact, which perpetuates crime, social exclusion and poverty. Getting interventions with this group right can help young people move away from crime and improve their life chances and those of their children.
Extract from the T2A response:
T2A is pleased that the Ministry of Justice recognises that children and young adults require a distinct approach in the commissioning of services in the secure estate because they are continuing to develop and their offending behaviour is different t that of adults. We also agree that sentence planning processes and interventions are most effective when they recognise the developmental needs of young people.
However, we are disappointed that the proposed Strategy does not go further t recognise the distinctive needs of young adults aged 18-24. T2A strongly believe that the arbitrary cut-off age of 18 between the youth and the adult systems is no based on the current evidence. By reforming the system to reflect the distinct need of this group, a significant impact would be felt in reducing current levels o reoffending, overall spend and, importantly, reducing the numbers of crime victims.
The T2A Alliance strongly supports developing a tailored approach to working wit young adults that is flexible and sensitive to their developmental maturity. There i extensive evidence, both demographic and developmental, for recognising ‘young adulthood’ as a particular stage in life. 4 As such, T2A would like to see all young people up to the age of 21 held in the youth estate as this would support the natural process of desistance. In our experience, young adults often feel extremely intimidated in adult prisons, where they are often seen as easy targets for intimidation and bullying by older inmates. Furthermore, the rules that govern Young Offender Institutions have a much stronger emphasis on education.
T2A has concerns that the proposed Strategy, in seeking to enhance the differences between the children’s secure estate and the secure estate for adults, risks exacerbating further the current problems and gaps experienced by young adults transitioning between the two systems. At present, as young adults move from the youth to the adult criminal justice system, the level of support typically drops dramatically, the type of support given changes, and the suitability of services may be reduced. The effects of these processes are exacerbated by poor communication between youth and adult services.
The T2A Alliance’s work has shown that a poor transition can have a catastrophic impact on a young adult’s life, especially for disadvantaged young adults who often have no family or community support available to them and live chaotic lives. The wrong interventions can hamper a young adult’s ability to begin the process of rehabilitation, such as being able to access support services, take on opportunities for learning and improving the skills, and maintain relationships and family contact— both of which can play a central role in supporting desistance from crime.