Justice Committee calls on Government to commit to more fundamental reform on young adults

Eighteen months after the publication of the Government’s response to the Justice Committee’s landmark report on young adults, the Committee has found that the approach taken by ministers has been too narrow and that the government should commit “to more fundamental reform”.

In a report published yesterday which assesses progress made by the government in implementing its commitments to young adults, the Committee Chair Bob Neill concludes that “the current approach taken by ministers is not yet working and we are not convinced that it will”. He calls on the government to develop a “clear and effective strategy” which recognises young adults’ strengths and supports them effectively.

Commenting, Joyce Moseley OBE, Chair of the T2A Alliance said: “18-25-year-olds in the criminal justice system have a hugely untapped capacity to address their behavior and permanently “grow out of crime”. Following the Justice Committee’s landmark “blueprint” for a strategic approach to the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system, we share the Committee’s frustration at the government’s failure to acknowledge the strength of evidence for more significant change. This is despite the limited progress that has been made in some areas to take better account of maturity. We hope this report will act as a spur to develop a robust and bold agenda dedicated to enabling young adults who commit crime to turn their lives around.”

The last Committee published a report on its inquiry on the treatment of young adults aged 18 to 25 in the criminal justice system in October 2016. T2A provided both oral and written evidence to the inquiry which reviewed the extensive body of evidence from disciplines including neuroscience, criminology and psychology for a distinct approach for young adults.

The 2016 report concluded that “there is overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system does not adequately address the distinct needs of young adults” and sets out a bold “blueprint” for a strategic approach to the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system. At the time, T2A welcomed the Committee’s “landmark and visionary report” and called for it to be implemented “in full and without delay”.

The then Government’s response, published in January 2017, accepted that young adults “must remain a priority group for criminal justice agencies” and committed to further developing operational practice based on maturity. However, it did not accept the Committee’s central recommendation for the Ministry of Justice to produce a specific young adult strategy.

The Committee took evidence from the Ministry about its preferred approach and the progress it had made in implementing the recommendations it did accept. In the report published yesterday, MPs concluded that the Ministry of Justice has adopted its current approach to reform due to cuts to its wider budget and the need for practicality. The report makes recommendations for ensuring that a more distinct approach is taken to young adults, on the basis of stronger evidence than the Ministry has gathered, particularly about how young adults are treated in prison. It says that the Government must commit to more fundamental reform in its Justice 2030 project.