Headlines: January 6th, 2009

A collective funding agreement has been reached which will secure the future of social worker posts in Young Offender Institutes for another year. The agreement, which spreads the cost across local authorities, lifts the immediate threat to the posts which would have come to an end in April when interim central funding was due to end.

The new deal will mean provision can be maintained and also allow time for an alternative funding solution to be worked out. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said it hopes permanent central funding can be secured by ensuring the scheme meets the requirements of the Youth Crime Action Plan.

John Harris, who chairs the Association’s Families, Communities and Young people policy committee and who has led the Association’s search for a solution said it was important that there was a social worker in every Institution because children in custody were often among the most vulnerable in society. “Many receive support from a social worker prior to entering the system and it seems bizarre that the support should stop when they need it most,” he said. The Association believed social workers in YOIs played a major role in safeguarding young people as part of a ‘through care’ function within the criminal justice system. They offered young people access to a range of services similar to those available in the community.

Mr. Harris continued, “In these times of financial restraint, I am pleased that local authorities are prepared to make this extra investment in the future of young people in their area.” He said, though, that collective funding agreements could be bureaucratic and inefficient so it was necessary to look for another solution for the next financial year. “The Youth Crime Action Plan commits to providing better support for young people in the criminal justice system and we hope that we can access some of the associated funding to put this well established project on a permanent footing,” he said.