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PLANS TO EXTEND PARENTING ORDERS

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Courts should have the power to issue Parenting Orders to the parents...
Courts should have the power to issue Parenting Orders to the parents

of first time offenders, home office minister Hilary Benn said today.

Speaking at a seminar in London, Mr Benn said the Orders, currently

not available for the parents of juveniles who plead guilty at their

first court appearance and are given a Referral Order, should be

extended in order to tackle juvenile offending as early as possible.

Proposals to increase the use of Parenting Orders are part of a

series of measures included in the Criminal Justice White Paper

'Justice For All' and are designed to steer potential young offenders

away from a life of crime.

Hilary Benn said:

'We propose to give the courts the power to make a Parenting Order

when a young offender pleads guilty to a first time offence and is

referred to a Youth Offending Panel by way of a Referral Order.

Similarly, we want more Parenting Orders to be issued with ASBOs, to

ensure parents of children engaging in anti-social behaviour get the

support they need to address the problem.

'Being a parent does bring with it responsibilities for all of us.

There are a small number of parents who seem unwilling or unable to

take personal responsibility for what their children are getting up

to. It isn't good enough just to let this happen and that is why and

where a Parenting Order should be issued.

'The Parenting Order is designed to offer support to parents whose

children have been involved in offending, anti-social behaviour or

truancy. It is not a punishment but a positive development for the

concept of parental responsibility, allowing parents to build their

skills so they can respond more effectively to challenging adolescent

behaviour.

'The Orders are still in their infancy, but early findings are

particularly promising. Parents are finding the programmes beneficial

regardless of some initial reluctance to attend them because of

compulsion. It is very positive that participants feel the programmes

have helped the relationship with their child, and I hear some

parents go on to establish their own parenting support groups as a

result of attending the courses.'

Welcoming the results of an evaluation of Parenting Orders, published

today, Mr Benn said:

'Early signs suggest the Order may also have an impact on

re-offending and that in the short term there is a reduction of

reconviction rates by the children of parents on the Order. It will

be interesting to see if this initial finding is confirmed by

longer-term research.

'However, the evaluation has highlighted a number of issues that we

need to address, including ensuring that more parents whose children

are becoming involved in offending feel the benefit of the scheme.

Mr Benn also encouraged the greater involvement of fathers in the

Parenting Order scheme:

'It is important that both parents work to help their children change

their offending behaviour, but research shows that 81% of those

attending parenting classes on Parenting Orders were female. We want

fathers to take more responsibility for their children's care and

are looking at ways in which more fathers can be made subject to

Parenting Orders where needed.'

Concluding his speech, Mr Benn said:

'There have been many positive developments for parenting this year,

with the extended use of parenting orders and the chancellor

announcing£25m for parenting support in the Spending Review. Early

intervention and the support of parents are crucial to ensure

healthy families and strong communities.

Notes

1. A Parenting Order includes attendance at practical guidance

sessions to help parents cope with a child's behaviour. These

sessions do not punish parents but give them practicial advice on

changing behaviour while supporting the parent.

2. Parenting Orders can be issued by the courts where;

- a child or young person has been convicted of an offence;

- where a child safety order, an anti-social behaviour order or sex

offender order has been made against the child;

- or where a person is convicted under section 443 or 444 of the

Education Act 1996 for failing to comply with a school attendance

order or secure the regular attendance at school of a registered

pupil.

3. 2194 Parenting Orders have been imposed between April

2000-December 2001. The vast majority, 1,536, were crime related.

4. Anti-social behaviour orders or ASBOs are civil orders, which

protect the community from behaviour that causes harassment, alarm or

distress. Breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence. ASBOs were

introduced in England and Wales by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998

and have been available since April 1999.

5. The orders protect the community by prohibiting offenders from

certain anti-social acts or entering a specified area.

6. 583 ASBOs were granted between April 1999 and March 2002 (the

latest date for which figures are available). In the same period 19

were refused.

7. The home office review of ASBOs found that, overall, police and

local authorities using ASBOs find them cost effective. The cost of

not taking action against persistent anti-social behaviour is much

higher.

8. The chancellor announced the Parenting Fund in the Spending Review

White Paper in July. The voluntary and community sector is working

with the government in the detailed design of the£25m fund, which

will provide a robust network of parenting support to help families

before they reach crisis point.

9. From 2 April 2002, the youth court have referred all young

offenders, (aged 10-17) pleading guilty and convicted for the first

time, to youth offender panels; unless the offending is so serious

that it warrants custody or the court orders an absolute discharge or

makes a hospital order.

10. The panels meet with the young person, his or her family and

wherever possible the victim of the crime to draw up a contract with

the offender. The contract includes a range of activities and

restrictions designed to deal with offenders, prevent re-offending

and repair the harm done to the victim and the wider community.

11. The Criminal Justice White Paper 'Justice For All' was published

on 17 July 2002. Copies are available at www.homeoffice.gov.uk

12. Hilary Benn was speaking at the Youth Justice Board and National

Family and Parenting Institute Seminar.

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