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Warning cuts could lead to rise in children in custody

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There is a risk the number of children in custody will increase if “counterproductive” plans to reduce in-year funding for youth offending teams by an extra £9m go ahead, the Local Government Association has warned.

The LGA claimed the reduction – which is being handed down in addition to savings already identified by the Youth Justice Board for this financial year – will throw agreed local plans into jeopardy.

The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales needs to make additional savings in the current financial year of £13.5m, primarily because the justice secretary cut his ministry’s allocation to it by an extra £12m as part of the wider government work on deficit reduction.

As outlined by a consultation, which closed last month, this £12m saving is expected to be met primarily through a £9m reduction in the youth justice grant provided to youth offending teams (YOTs).

Roy Perry (Con), chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the extra cut was likely to be “counterproductive” and have a “major effect” on YOTs’ preventative work to bring down offending and reoffending rates.

Working with councils, YOTs have helped reduce the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system by 75% over the past 10 years, from 88,403 in 2003-4 to 22,393 in 2013-14.

Cllr Perry added: “With the increase in the types of violent incidents young people are involved in, work of YOTs are more important than ever to local communities and are an effective way of addressing youth crime and youth violence.

“With the average cost of a young person in custody estimated at £100,000 per annum, it would only take 90 individuals to enter the youth justice system for one year and any planned savings will be wiped out in real terms.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Alongside other departments, the Ministry of Justice has been asked to find savings as part of the summer budget. We are committed to playing our part in the government’s deficit reduction plans and delivering significant savings for the taxpayer.

“YOTs have seen a 92% increase in funding per head for their statutory caseload, as the fall in caseload has far outstripped YOT budget reductions. The review will consider future options for reforms to the youth justice system.”

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