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Crime and punishment

Parent classes help cut youth offending

Upbeat assessment of new government programme

Will Woodward Education editor
Wednesday July 10, 2002
The Guardian


New government programmes for the parents of difficult youngsters have cut offences committed by their children by a third, research for the youth justice board published yesterday shows.

Nearly 3,000 parents joined the parenting programmes in England and Wales between spring 1999 and the end of last year. A sixth were referred to the programme by a court as part of a parenting order, but two thirds of parents came voluntarily.

In the year prior to the parents being referred, 89% had been convicted of an offence, compared to 61.5% in the year after the parent left the programme.

The number of recorded offences committed by the children had fallen by 50 - from 4.4 to 2.1 either side of the programme. "Parents are crucial if we want to stop youngsters offending. Now there is real evidence relatively short parenting programmes ... can cut offending by half among youngsters who were already entrenched in their offending," said the chairman, Lord Warner.

The research into 34 of the projects was carried out by the Policy Research Bureau. Eight out of 10 said they wanted help coping with bad behaviour by their children. According to the research, more than nine out of 10 parents would recommend it to other parents and only 6% were negative about it. They said the classes helped them communicate better with their children.

Publishing the annual report, Lord Warner delivered an upbeat assessment of progress made since the government's programme to tackle young offending was put in place. He said youth justice reforms were "a great success story".

A survey by Mori suggested levels of youth crime showed a rise last year. "The board is sceptical about whether youth crime is spiralling out of control ... there are real problems but there is no need for panic," he said.

He acknowledged there were still problems, including a minority of young offenders who "strut about with a sense of untouchability in some areas, primarily London." Detection and prosecution rates were too low.

The government needed better strategies for tackling the troublesome children below the age of criminal responsibility, 10. Too many children with serious psychiatric conditions ended up in the criminal justice system.

"The poor access to education for many of those temporarily or permanently excluded from school is a major contributor to youth crime," he said.

But reoffending on bail had been cut significantly through bail supervision and support schemes.

Lord Warner said: "We should all be heartened by the evidence in this annual review that shows youth crime is not spiralling out of control.

"Communities, parents and ... those who have suffered as victims of crime, should take more comfort in the knowledge that we have a system in place and a strategy that works to reduce offending."

He said the board wanted to see an "expansion of robust community penalties as an alternative to the less effective short custodial penalties."

 Special reports
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 The issue explained
22.02.2002: Police reform

 Useful links
Metropolitan police
Police Federation
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Firearms manual - Association of Chief Police Officers
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